Did you know that periodontal disease affects half the American population? This is a true health crisis, since gum disease can not only lead to tooth loss but is also connected to dozens of chronic disease conditions, including breast cancer. There is a way out of the cycle of periodontal disease and chronic illness, however. As it turns out, flossing may just prevent Breast Cancer.
What is Gum Disease?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is gum disease and how does it differ from other
dental complications? First of all, the disease starts with plaque. This is a sticky film that can eventually harden and become difficult to remove. What’s worse, plaque can harbor some of the most dangerous bacteria that not just your mouth but your whole body may be exposed to, such as E. coli (the pathogenic kind) and Porphyromonas gingivalis.
Once bacterium such as these takes hold, they are hard to get rid of. Eventually, infection and inflammation of the gums will occur. This is called gingivitis. If left unchecked, gingivitis morphs into the “worst-case scenario”—gum disease (also known as periodontal disease or periodontitis. This is when inflamed gums begin to pull away from the teeth, creating tiny pockets where food and even more bacteria collect. Eventually, individuals with the periodontal disease suffer from loss of teeth. In addition, some experts believe that the harmful bacteria in the mouth can eventually move to other parts of the body.
Believe it or not, roughly 85% of the American population has some form of periodontal disease. This is not just an “old people’s disease.” Other estimates say that about half of all high school students have gingivitis and are on their way to getting periodontal disease, most likely before they are 30.
Periodontal Disease and Breast Cancer
There is a clear link between gum disease and cancer in both men and women. This includes breast cancer in women as well.
A 2017 joint study conducted by the University of Texas and the State University of New York at Buffalo surveyed over 65,000 women. Those who had gum disease were up to 14% more likely to get a cancer diagnosis than women with health gum.
The types of cancer these women were more likely to get included esophageal, lung, gallbladder, skin, and Breast Cancer. In a previous version of the same joint study, women who had gum disease had a roughly 2% higher risk of breast cancer. In the 2017 study, the increased risk was 13%.
What You Can Do—FLOSS!
These statistics prove without a shadow of a doubt that periodontal disease is a strong risk factor for Breast Cancer. But, of course, there are lots of things you can do to prevent periodontal disease. The first thing costs pennies per day and just a little bit of your time. This is flossing.
Why flossing? While brushing alone does help to remove plaque from the outside areas of the teeth, it cannot get in the areas in between teeth. Flossing can get to those areas to remove the plaque if used daily. A review by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews showed that individuals who both brush and floss regularly experienced less gum bleeding than those who brush alone.
There are other risk factors for gum disease, such as diet, hormonal changes (especially in women), and lack of sleep. Adding flossing as well as oil-pulling should be part of every Healing Diva’s daily dental and health protocol.