By Dr. Michael Herndon, DDS, AF

Early symptoms of many systemic diseases manifest themselves in the oral cavity months or even years before their detection through various medical tests. Many conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, low-birth-weight complications in pregnancy and pulmonary disease have been linked to periodontal disease.

Lately, a link between periodontal disease and cancer has been suggested through several studies. Chronic inflammation has been the rationale behind the association look at specific types of cancers and gum disease.

Cancers that have been associated with chronic gum disease are oral cancers, upper GI and gastric cancers, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, and esophageal cancer. One must keep in mind that finding an association between gum disease and cancer is difficult to ascertain since the link can be hidden within many variables that must be ruled out in order to be certain.

It is important to point out the possible confounding factors affecting the association between periodontal disease and various cancer risks. Smoking, socioeconomic status, diabetes, age, gender, and ethnicity along with genetics constitute the most common confounding factors regarding cancer risks. This is one of the reasons many studies need to be completed and then an analysis of all of them to arrive at sound conclusions.

Be that as it may, many studies suggest that there is a link and therefore prudence would dictate that having a healthy mouth free of periodontal disease should be the goal of every patient.

So, be safe. Clean your teeth well and floss daily, and see your dentist on a regular basis. If you are diagnosed with gum disease, it would be wise to visit a periodontist or dentist trained and experienced in the treatment and management of periodontal disease, just to be safe.