Oral & Vision Health Blog

LINKED: Oral Bacteria and Pancreatic Cancer Risk

It has been known for a while that oral health can impact overall health. For example, oral bacteria has been associated with inflammation causing heart disease. What you may be surprised to find is that within the last five years, a link has been shown between oral bacteria and pancreatic cancer risk as well.

Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to detect. Unfortunately, people diagnosed with this form of cancer often die within six months of the diagnosis. Now that periodontal disease is linked to pancreatic cancer, it may be possible for people to take steps to avoid this devastating diagnosis. 

Research has shown that the type of oral bacterium present can increase or decrease the chance of developing pancreatic cancer. If infectious oral bacterium is present, the risk is double, whereas people with harmless oral bacteria have a 45% reduced risk.

In April, researchers at New York University displayed that changes in the oral bacteria in the mouth may show who is at risk of developing pancreatic cancer. This is a step beyond past studies which showed that the presence of gum disease and loss of teeth were linked to the cancer. Linking specific species of bacteria to pancreatic cancer may prove to help uncover a risk factor for this form of cancer. It may also be useful in potentially developing a method of early detection.

At this point in time, an early detection method does not exist. Taking steps to reduce the likelihood of developing gum disease may be helpful, however. Gum disease occurs when bacteria in plaque accumulates between the gums and the teeth. The growing bacteria causes inflammation which leads to deterioration of the gums. Eventually the gums may recede and tooth loss may occur.

Proper oral habits can prevent periodontal disease. Be sure to implement the following tips:

  • Brush your teeth after meals to remove food particles and plaque.
  • Brush your tongue to remove bacteria.
  • Floss daily to remove food and plaque that your toothbrush can't get.
  • Use mouthwash to reduce plaque.
  • Avoid other risks of periodontal disease, such as smoking.
  • See your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and checkup.

Taking the above steps may reduce your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. They will also help you avoid gum disease and tooth loss. Getting into healthy oral habits makes sense. The tasks required are simple and result in improved oral and overall health. Take the time to take care of your teeth starting today!

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