In the last decade, medical researchers have uncovered links between oral health and overall physical and mental health. They now agree that poor oral health may be a contributing factor to developing a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including esophageal cancer.
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, ASCO, esophageal cancer represents 1% of cancers diagnosed in the United States. Every year, about 17,000 American adults will develop food pipe cancer, about 75% of them men. Although it depends on many factors, the average 5-year survival rate for people with esophageal cancer is 19%.
Commonly, cancer of the esophagus develops few symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage, making it difficult to detect in time for early intervention. Some of the symptoms of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing, unexplained weight loss, chest pain, and hoarseness. Here is some information on the correlation between oral health and esophageal cancer.
Like many areas of our bodies, our mouths contain a large number and variety of bacteria, most of which is harmless. Their presence and impact are normally regulated by our immune systems, but when oral health is not optimal, bacteria not only cause the damage we associate with problems such as cavities and gum disease but also much more serious issues such as heart disease and cancer.
The Mayo Clinic reports that oral bacteria and inflammation have been associated with a number of cancers, including esophageal cancer, or cancer of the food pipe. The process is not yet fully understood, but bacteria from the mouth can travel to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and trigger potential trouble.
Two specific strains of bacteria active in gum disease – Tannerella forsythia and Porphyromonas gingivalis – are associated with up to a 21% higher risk of esophageal cancer. A serious matter since this type of cancer has a very high fatality rate.
Both types of bacteria contribute to the damage caused by advanced gum disease, including severe damage to the tissues and bones that hold teeth in place. Given the destructive power of these microbes, scientists observed how the bacteria was harmful to the tissues of the esophagus as well, especially since they can be constantly carried from the mouth straight into the esophagus every time we swallow.
A recent study conducted at the New York University School of Medicine discovered that the oral bacteria associated with periodontal (gum) disease might increase the risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.
The study followed the oral and physical health of over 100,000 Americans over a decade-long period. Although it was not a cause-and-direct effect study, it did help establish a connection between some of these bacteria and the increased risk of esophageal cancer.
Scientific findings confirmed earlier studies that suggested that poor oral is also related to increased risks of developing conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory illness, and some other forms of cancer.
Oral health is much more than healthy teeth and gums. The timely detection and treatment of oral disease can contribute to overall well-being and, as importantly, oral disease can be a marker that guides physicians to the early diagnosis of many other serious problems in the body.
If you want to know more about how to improve your oral health, visit Dedicated Dental. Just as our name implies, Dedicated Dental is here to help you keep your teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime. The friendly staff at Dedicated Dental welcomes your call and looks forward to serving you. If you have any questions about our family and cosmetic dentistry services, or you would like to schedule an appointment or consultation, please call (702) 566-5509. You can also request an appointment online.