There's a new tool for women looking to decrease their chances of breast
A new study in the journal
Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention says that women in their post-menopause years who have gum disease also
have a 14 percent higher risk of breast cancer, compared to women with
better dental health. Women with a history of smoking have an even higher
risk of breast cancer if they have gum disease--up to 36 percent, depending
on when they quit or whether they still smoke. Smoking is not only a major
cause of gum disease, but it also is an impediment to healing the gums
and preventing infection.
"Gum disease--also called periodontal disease--develops when tooth
plaque and tartar aren't removed, either via flossing and brushing
or a cleaning at the dentist's office," says
Parveen Vora, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group. "It can cause red and inflamed gums and, in its more advanced stages,
possible bone and tissue loss in the mouth. Researchers are unsure why
gum disease may affect a woman's chances of breast cancer, but possible
theories consider that the oral inflammation and bacteria caused by gum
disease may also cause problems with the breast tissue."
Women concerned about gum disease can keep an eye out for these symptoms:
swollen, tender gums that may also bleed, teeth that come loose or are
sensitive, pain when chewing and receding gums. "Your dentist may
take x-rays and measure your gum pockets, the small space where your gums
pull away from your teeth," Dr. Vora says. "Any gap bigger than
3 millimeters can be cause for concern when it comes to gum disease. Those
larger gum pockets may require a deep cleaning called scaling and root
planing, which clears plaque and tartar buildup and bacteria underneath
the gum line. This procedure may be followed up with oral antibiotic medication.
In severe cases of gum disease, surgery might be needed."
While the study authors say more data is needed on the subject, they also
point out that gum disease has been associated with other health conditions.
"Studies have noted that the inflammation caused by gum disease may
increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes,"
Dr. Vora says.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.