​Are Oral Health and Cancer Related?

dentist examResearchers at the University of Helsinki released a report that suggests that people with poor oral health are at high risk of developing pancreatic cancer. They found that the role of mouth bacteria that cause inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth (periodontitis) are closely linked to the onset of oral and other cancers elsewhere in the body.

The study showed that the mouth bacteria that cause periodontitis can turn viral and move freely to other parts of the body where they take part in the destruction of tissue that’s related to cancer. Researchers think that inflamed gum tissues are a sort of gateway path for cancer to develop in other parts of the body.

The good news is that the overall cost to prevent the cancer from forming is very inexpensive. Brushing and flossing one’s teeth and regularly scheduled dental checkups and cleanings are the best way to prevent the onset of certain cancers in the body that are related to the bacteria in your mouth.

Over the years, science has either linked, or strongly suspects that certain other cancers of the body are directly or indirectly related to oral health. Here are a few of the cancers that researchers think might be linked to poor oral health.

Lung cancer

Investigators looked at the relationship between tooth loss (periodontal disease) and lung cancer. One study found no significant link between the two, but another study found that there was an increased risk in people with periodontal disease who were also smokers.

The evidence is still inconclusive, but researchers are continuing to look to see if there might be another link. While lung cancer is primarily due to smoking, some researchers think that poor oral health could increase the risk of those who might be more susceptible to lung cancer due to being regular smokers.

Oral cancer

The link between oral cancer and poor oral health has been studied for many years. A group of scientists led by Dr. Tezal found a marked increase in oral tumors or precancerous oral lesions in patients who have periodontal disease. He also found that the risk of oral tumors was significantly higher for non-smokers. For smokers the risk was exponentially higher.

There were other studies performed that found that tooth loss was an independent risk factor in oral cancel because of chronic trauma to the oral mucosa which scientists think might play a role in cancer of the mouth. For those who lost 11 or more teeth, their risk for oral cancer went up 2.7 times.

Esophageal cancer

Another study found that when a person is missing 6 to 15 teeth, their risk of esophageal cancer doubled from someone who isn’t missing any teeth at all. The link between esophageal cancer and periodontal disease needs to be studied further because at the time of this blog post there is only one study that is showing a significant link between the two.

Upper GI and gastric cancers

A Japanese study found a two-fold increase in the odds of developing a gastric type of cancer in people who have lost 10 or more teeth. They found that the odds of cancer will increase in proportion to how many teeth are lost. There are other studies by a research named Michaud who report that no significant increase in cancers have been linked to the amount of teeth a person loses.

Cancer Prevention?

Can oral and other forms of cancer be prevented by good oral hygiene? The evidence is still inconclusive. If anything, maintaining proper oral health on a daily basis can most likely help decrease the risk of certain cancers forming. While this does not prevent cancer in and of itself, having good oral health is critical to the overall health of your body.

Quitting smoking, quitting chewing tobacco, and even quitting eCigs could help prevent certain types of oral cancers from forming, especially if you have poor oral health. Bad habits like chewing on lips and cheeks, or any other continuous tissue damage can also increase your risk of oral cancers. In addition to brushing and flossing on a daily basis, it’s imperative that you make an appointment with a dentist if you haven’t been to one in a while.

The dentist has specialized tools that they can use to check for various forms of oral cancers in your mouth. If caught early enough, there’s a good chance they can cut it out without any major damage or harm being done.


While some scientific studies have shown that there is most likely an increase in cancer due to poor oral health, other studies have been inconclusive. What is known is that the scientific community thinks the link between oral health and cancer is important enough to spend millions of dollars in research.

If you suspect you might be at risk for oral cancer, or would like to schedule an oral cancer screening, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Even if you haven’t been to the dentist in a long while, there are treatment options that can help reduce the amount of dangerous bacteria in your mouth. At Water Tower Dental Care, we can help you regain your oral health which in turn can help increase your overall health.