Dr Jacobie Claasen - Can gum disease increase your risk of breast cancer?

New research has discovered that women who suffer from gum disease (periodontitis) may be up to two or three times more likely to develop breast cancer. This research supports the theory that cancer can be triggered from an inflammatory state within the body. Inflammatory conditions like gum disease increases your overall level of inflammation, thus increasing your risk of developing cancer. This evidence also supports the theories that our mouths and our gums have a crucial influence on our overall health. Studies have previously identified links between gum disease and potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Gum disease has a number of risk factors of its own. It develops when dental plaque is not effectively removed from the mouth. Plaque is a bio-film of bacteria which triggers an inflammatory reaction. The first signs of gum disease are often common and easily disregarded. Signs include bleeding from the gums when brushing or halitosis (bad breath). If left untreated the condition can become chronic. Inflammation from the gums can affect the underlying bone as well as the attachment of teeth. Teeth can begin to feel mobile and in severe cases can even fall out!

The most effective way to prevent gum disease is by adhering to an effective oral health regime. In essence the inflammation-causing dental plaque needs to be removed. Every day. Twice a day. Brushing for two minutes twice daily and flossing once daily are the fundamentals of an effective oral health routine. It is important to instil these habits early on to prevent most dental and oral problems. Visiting your dentist bi-annually is of utmost importance - especially when you feel that there is no need for it. Problems often arise without patients being aware thereof.

I always tell my patients that the secret to strong and healthy teeth, as with almost everything in life, is maintenance! The maintenance that you do daily at home together with the maintenance that we perform in the dental chair every six months. Those five minutes spent daily can make the world of a difference, with consequences more far reaching than we have previously thought.

If your dental check-up is something that has been on the back burner, make it a priority today! You may be preventing so much more.

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