How your dentist can save you from cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease

There’s a 50-50 chance that something going on in your mouth right now is threatening your life.

From all over the world, research is piling in about how an often-overlooked oral health problem increases the odds of dying from diabetes, kidney disease or cancer for at least half of all Americans.

Are you one of them?

Gum disease: The fast track to cancer

Gum disease, known as periodontitis, causes bleeding and inflammation of the gums. In its advanced stages, periodontitis can mean losing teeth, due to the breakdown of gum tissue and the bones beneath.

But that’s just the easy stuff.

A Finnish study shows the unlikely connection between pancreatic cancer and gum disease. Both conditions share the enzyme treponema denticola chymotrypsin-like proteinase, or Td-CTLP.

Even more alarming news turned up in a follow-up study… Lead researcher Tim Sorsa put it this way: “These studies have demonstrated for the first time that the… bacteria underlying gum disease are able to spread from the mouth to other parts of the body … and take part in central mechanisms of tissue destruction related to cancer.”

In another study, researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo looked at 65,000 women ages 54 to 86. Their findings are alarming:

  • Having gum disease increased general risk of cancer by 14 percent
  • Women with gum disease were three times more likely to develop esophageal cancer. The researchers believe this is because the gums are near the esophagus, making it easy for bacteria to spread.

Detecting diabetes at the dentist

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam examined blood samples from a group of 313 participants with either severe, beginning, or no gum disease.

They found that those with severe gum disease were at greatest risk for diabetes, with indicators falling barely within normal blood sugar ranges.

Perhaps more important are the undiagnosed cases of diabetes that were discovered: ten percent of those with only mild to moderate gum disease, and as many as eighteen percent of those with severe gum disease.

The silver lining here is that the dentist’s office could very well become the first line of defense for early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, saving thousands of lives each year!

The connection to kidney disease

There also seems to be a connection between gum disease and dying of kidney disease.

A team at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom analyzed data from 13,734 people who took part in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES III, in the United States.

They determined that, over a ten-year period, people who had both periodontitis and chronic kidney disease had a mortality rate of 41% (from any cause, not just kidney disease), while those with only kidney disease suffered a mortality rate of only 32%.

The intimate connection between gum disease and arthritis

So you see, gum disease can be deadly. But even when it’s not causing cancer or diabetes, it’s behind some really painful conditions, most notably rheumatoid arthritis.

When it comes to RA and gum disease, health experts aren’t really sure which is the chicken and which is the egg:

  • A 2008 German study showed that people with RA had eight times greater odds of developing gum disease.
  • A 2013 study at the University of Kentucky found that the bacterium that causes gum disease leads to an earlier onset of RA and causes symptoms to progress more quickly and with more severity.

Inflammation could be the connection. With RA, the immune system causes inflammation, even though there are no bacteria or viruses to fight. It’s possible that this response is set off by the mouth inflammation of gum disease.

Healthy gums for a longer life

There’s little room for doubt that good dental health can prevent catastrophic illness.

The good news: there are plenty of ways to keep your gums healthy and strong.

  1. Brush the right way. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth, so your teeth and gums get cleaned.
  2. Toothbrush care: Store your brush upright, in open air. If you alternate between two brushes (a good idea), don’t let them touch and contaminate each other. Get new brushes every three months.
  3. Strengthen your bones. Gum disease is really the beginning of periodontal osteoporosis. Just like the rest of your skeleton, your jawbones can shrink and become brittle. Follow these tips for preventing osteoporosis.
  4. Use a gum stimulator. A rubber-tipped stimulator cleans between teeth and massages the gums.
  5. Floss regularly. Leaving food between your teeth is a sure way to invite bacteria into your gums.
  6. Get your vitamins. Vitamin C can help curb bleeding gums, while Vitamin D has been shown to reduce signs of early gum disease by as much as 20 percent. And don’t forget these 4 supplements that fight gum disease and aging.
  7. Drink tea. Black and green tea contain antioxidants that prevent plaque buildup.
  8. Use a Proxa Brush. It looks like a tiny bottle brush and cleans those hard-to-reach places between teeth and under crowns.
  9. Use mouthwash. Just make sure you’re using the healthy kind. Alternatively, swish and rinse with peroxide and water, half of each. Just don’t swallow it. Three times a week will help inhibit bacteria.
  10. Not too much smoking or drinking. Both habits rob your body of vitamins and minerals that keep your mouth healthy
  11. Scrape your tongue. Bacteria and toxins love the warm, moist environment of your tongue. Scrape with a toothbrush, popsicle stick, tongue depressor or small spoon.
  12. Eat a raw vegetable a day. Hard, crunchy foods stimulate teeth and gums to prevent disease.

Editor’s note: Did you know that a substance Endodontist’s use to irrigate and sanitize a root canal procedure has been shown to help clear calcium plaque buildup from arteries? You can read more about it right here

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.