Can Oral Bacteria Lead to Cancer?

Boutique Dentistry for Nashville, Tennessee

It’s an important reminder about the importance of dental care. If you think that oral health problems will be confined to your mouth, then you haven’t been paying attention with the strong links developing between oral bacteria, gum disease, and cancer.

It’s also an important reminder that holistic dentistry is vital because it keeps these important health connections in mind.

A Strong Link with Esophageal Cancer

esophageal cancerOne of the most recent links discovered between oral bacteria and cancer was reported by researchers from the University of Louisville. In a recent study, they found that the oral bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis was found in 61% of patients who had esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). P. gingivalis was found largely in the cancerous tissues, with only 12% being found in tissues adjacent to the cancer, and not at all in healthy esophageal tissue.

To confirm the presence of P. gingivalis, researchers looked at an enzyme unique to the bacterium, lysine-gingipain. Genetic testing also confirmed that the bacteria had colonized in and around the cancerous tissue.

Is It a Causal Link?

In this case, the design of their study wouldn’t let them answer the question we all want to know: did the oral bacteria cause the cancer? Researchers did say it’s possible that the P. gingivalis simply colonized the cancer after it had developed because the environment was favorable. But it’s also possible that the oral bacteria actually contributed to the growth of the cancer.

The sheer number of cancers that have been associated with oral bacteria, and the growing understanding of how oral bacteria could contribute to cancers, makes us think that this may be more than just a coincidence. Gum disease has been linked to oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, and colon cancer. It’s also been linked to an increased risk for breast cancer. One study even showed how oral bacteria can contribute to cancer growth. Some oral bacteria have been shown to hide cancer cells from our immune system, allowing tumors to grow undetected.

With all these strong links, it seems that taking care of your oral health might be an important approach to help reduce your cancer risk.

If you are looking for a holistic dentist in Nashville that can help protect your overall health, look no further than Dr. Kent E. White at the Center for Advanced Dentistry, whose comprehensive dental training and medical cross-training can help you be aware of and stop health threats.

Please call (615) 383-6787 today to schedule your appointment at the Center for Advanced Dentistry.