We’re always trying to stay on top of the latest dental research. Every year, we see more and more studies further suggesting a complex connection between your oral health and overall health. Just this month, researchers from New York University and the American Association for Cancer Research published studies describing possible links between precancerous stomach lesions or esophageal cancer and oral health.
In the first study, published in the most recent Journal of Periodontology, researchers assessed a group of 105 people scheduled to have an endoscopy. They found that people whose tests showed precancerous stomach lesions were more likely to have gums that bleed when probed, less likely to floss regularly, and more likely to have higher numbers of three particular strains of bacteria in their mouth. The study’s author, Yihong Li, DDS, MPH, DrPH, professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at NYU Dentistry, concluded: “Our study reinforces earlier findings that poor oral health is associated with an increased risk of precancerous lesions of stomach cancer.”
In the next study, published in Cancer Research, researchers used data from extensive health studies to locate 106 people who developed esophageal cancer. When they examined the bacteria in those people’s mouths, they discovered that there were certain types of bacteria associated with a higher risk of esophageal cancer. One strain of bacteria was associated with a 21% increased risk. Multiple strains of bacteria associated with a higher risk of esophageal cancer are also linked to gum disease.
If you have gum disease, don’t panic! These are small research studies, and they do not mean that gum disease = cancer. Scientists are continually exploring the connection between our oral and overall health, and no one study has proven that gum disease is definitely anything but just that, gum disease. The good news is, that since evidence increasingly points to a connection between your oral health and your overall health, you may actually be able to improve your overall health by simply coming to see us for dental wellness or gum care visits.