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The Connection Between Poor Oral Health and Cancer

Cancer .is an all-too-prevalent yet sadly mysterious affliction. We know of many carcinogens, but often the onset of cancer in individuals is mysterious.

You’ve likely heard that bad oral health can lead to heart disease. Potential causes of this correlation include the bacteria in the mouth traveling to blood vessels throughout the body, causing blood clots. It’s also thought that inflammation, the body’s response to infection, can set off a chain reaction that can cause damage to the heart.

While the causation of heart disease by poor oral health is not proven, multiple studies have shown a correlation. What, then, about other illnesses, such as cancer? Let’s explore the connection between poor oral health and cancer.

Does poor oral health cause cancer?

While no studies conclusively prove that poor oral health is a direct carcinogen, there are many studies that suggest a correlation.

A 2013 study by the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology summed it up succinctly:

“Periodontitis, characterized by epithelial proliferation and migration, results in a chronic release of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, prostaglandins, and enzymes, all of which are associated with cancer development.”

The study goes on to add that all chronic infections and inflammations are associated with increased cancer risk. Evidence also suggests bacterial and viral infections may correlate to cancer. Periodontitis, or gum disease, is an infection of the gums, and gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. This means both could be risks for carcinogenesis.

A 2018 study by the International Journal of Cancer found a considerable link between periodontitis and pancreatic cancer. The study wrote:\

“Our study … showed a clear positive association between periodontitis and cancer mortality, especially pancreatic cancer mortality.”

What can you do to prevent gum disease and gingivitis?

While the prospect of there being a connection between poor oral health and cancer may be scary, there are steps you can take to prevent infection and inflammation that may put you at risk.

Periodontitis, commonly known as gum disease, is an infection of the gums that, if left untreated, can damage your teeth and overall health. Luckily, gum disease is treatable and preventable if proper dental hygiene is observed.

The same goes for gingivitis, a milder form of gum disease characterized by inflammation of the gums.

To prevent these illnesses and avoid more serious health ramifications that may result from them, follow these basic dental hygiene guidelines:

  • Brush your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Visit your dental hygienist for cleanings every six to twelve months. (If you have risk factors for gum disease, you may need to visit more often.)
  • Undergo regular dental X-rays, which can help you and your dentist identify disease that may not be obvious.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet, in particular, is key to overall dental health.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Liberman today!

Concerned about your oral health? Schedule an examination with Dr. Liberman today! Proactive dental care is the best defense against cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and other threats to your dental and overall health. To schedule an examination or learn more, contact us today!


Heikkilä, P., But, A., Sorsa, T. and Haukka, J. (2018), Periodontitis and cancer mortality: Register‐based cohort study of 68,273 adults in 10‐year follow‐up. Int. J. Cancer, 142: 2244-2253. doi:10.1002/ijc.31254

Rajesh, K S et al. “Poor periodontal health: A cancer risk?.” Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology vol. 17,6 (2013): 706-10. doi:10.4103/0972-124X.124470

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