Your mouth is the gateway to your body, and the more we understand about it, the more we know that common oral health problems often have far-reaching consequences. Now there are multiple studies suggesting that chronic advanced gum disease, chronic periodontitis, may increase your risk for oral cancer.

Recent Study Suggests Strong Correlation

The most recent study to look at the link between oral cancer and gum disease was published in the journal Head and Neck Medicine. It compared 178 patients who had been diagnosed with oral cancer (specifically oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC)) with 123 healthy controls matched for age. Researchers found that people with cancer had significantly higher bone loss around their teeth, about 4 mm, compared with people who had not been diagnosed with cancer, who had lost about 3 mm. They also found that people who had undergone periodontal treatment had a much lower risk of gum disease (about 80% less). In addition to the good news about prevention, this study has the benefit of looking at the most common type of oral cancer, which accounts for about 90% of all oral cancer cases.

However, tongue cancer has also been linked to gum disease. An earlier study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)’s Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery imprint looked at the impact of gum disease on the risk of tongue cancer. By matching 51 men with tongue cancer with 53 men who had not been diagnosed, the journal found that you may be more than five times more likely to get tongue cancer if you have chronic gum disease.

Another study suggested that the human papillomavirus (HPV) may find a conducive environment in a mouth with gum disease. The HPV virus is well-known for its connection to cervical cancer, but it is also associated with many oral cancers as well. Researchers found that each millimeter of bone loss made it 4 times more likely that you would develop an HPV-positive tongue cancer.

Prevention and Screening

If you are concerned about the risk of developing oral cancer, it’s important to make sure you keep gum disease under control and get oral cancer screenings as appropriate.

To talk to a dentist about your risks, please contact Dr. James B. Polley in Las Vegas today.