Gum Disease and Pancreatic Cancer
Periodontal disease may more than double your risk of pancreatic cancer. The participants in one study were followed for 16 years and the researchers found those with gum disease had a 64 percent increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Periodontal disease can affect nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population to some degree. More evidence is showing that this localized gum infection is linked to a host of systemic conditions. While many of the studies have shown strong connections, some links have not yet been established as “causal.”
If you think you might have gum disease, call the Babylon gum disease specialists of Babylon Dental Care at (631) 983-6665 right away to make an appointment. Let us help you reduce your periodontal disease and keep it under control to preserve your health.
Signs of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums that develops when a bacterium causes inflammation, also called gingivitis. One trigger is when food or plaque is trapped between the gum and the bottom of the tooth.
Without proper daily dental care, periodontal disease can seriously damage the tooth and soft tissue. This may ultimately lead to the loss of your tooth. Some of the common symptoms that you may find with periodontal disease include:
- Bad breath or bad taste that doesn’t go away
- Blood when flossing or brushing teeth
- Bleeding or tender gums
- Change in the fit of partial dentures or in your bite
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Loose teeth or tooth loss
- New spaces between teeth
- Pain while chewing
- Puffy or swollen gums
- Pus between the gums and teeth
- Red, dusky red, or purple gums
- Sensitive teeth
In addition to poor dental care, other factors increase your risk of developing periodontal disease. These include:
- Crooked teeth
- Defective fillings
- Dry mouth
- Female hormonal changes, such as with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor-fitting bridges or partial dentures
- Underlying immune-deficiencies—e.g., AIDS
If you recognize any of these symptoms of periodontal disease or have an increased risk from one of the listed factors, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately. Your dentist can perform an examination to determine whether you have gum disease.
They will also make recommendations about your oral care and overall health to help reduce your risk of diseases that are commonly associated with periodontal disease.
What Is Pancreatic Cancer?
Cancer is usually named by the organ in which it starts. When cancer cells begin to grow out of control in the pancreas, it’s called pancreatic cancer. There are two main types of pancreatic cancer. The pancreas sits behind the stomach. It’s about six inches long, two inches wide, and is shaped a little bit like a fish.
The pancreas is made up mostly of exocrine cells. These form glands and ducts that produce pancreatic enzymes. The enzymes are released directly into the intestines where they help digest foods. Cancer that develops in the exocrine cells is called adenocarcinoma and is the most common type of pancreatic cancer.
The pancreas also has endocrine cells that are important in the production of hormones. The pancreas makes glucagon and insulin, both of which help control blood sugar levels. Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors are less common and start in the endocrine cells.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of pancreatic cancer do not show up early in the disease. By the time you experience symptoms, the disease is usually advanced. If you notice any unexplained symptoms, see your doctor who can check for conditions, including pancreatic cancer, that may explain your symptoms. People with advanced pancreatic cancer may notice:
- Blood clots
- Changes in stool
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Pain, usually in the abdomen that radiates to the back
- Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
- Light-colored stools
- New or worsening diabetes
- Pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas)
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
It is difficult to diagnose pancreatic cancer early as the organ is located deep in the abdomen. Doctors cannot feel a tumor during a physical examination and symptoms are not always obvious.
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat. Surgery offers the best option for controlling this cancer. However, when it is diagnosed at later stages, patients are not usually eligible for surgery. Pancreatic cancer can also become metastatic and spread to nearby lymph nodes. It can then spread to the liver, the lining of the abdominal cavity, and the lungs. If it is treated very early, there is a higher chance of survival.
How Is Gum Disease Linked to Pancreatic Cancer?
Data has shown a correlation between pancreatic cancer and gum disease. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a link between bacteria commonly found in the mouth and the development of pancreatic cancer.
Participants with significant levels of the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis in their mouth had a 59 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those who did not have the bacteria. A second study published two years later found similar results. A higher risk of pancreatic cancer was also related to a second oral bacteria, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans.
Currently, there is not much known about what triggers the development of pancreatic cancer. However, the lead researcher from the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association believes that inflammation triggered by the bacteria in the mouth may consequently cause inflammation in the pancreas. A secondary possibility is that the bacteria is a marker for cancer-causing inflammation and is not a causative agent.
How Dental Care Can Help
Good oral hygiene can help reduce the risk of periodontal disease. Your first line of defense is to maintain oral health by brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing at least once daily. Flossing helps remove debris left behind after eating that your toothbrush cannot reach.
Every six months you should also see your dentist for routine checkups and cleanings. Your dentist can remove plaque and tartar buildup in hard-to-reach places where bacteria can grow and trigger periodontal disease. If you have already been diagnosed with gum disease, or notice that you have the symptoms, you should discuss this with your dentist. Your dental professional can recommend an appropriate treatment plan to help reduce inflammation.
Schedule Your Appointment with Babylon Dental Care Today
It’s never too late to begin to correct gum disease. At Babylon Dental Care, we will discuss your options for treatment and good oral hygiene with you. Contact Babylon Dental Care at (631) 983-6665 if you have concerns about your oral health or need a dental cleaning and check-up. We’re here to help diagnose any problem and get you started on a proper course of treatment.