Recent studies from the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Hospital in Finland have revealed that the harmful bacteria that brings on periodontitis (an advanced stage of gum disease) also appears to contribute to the development of pancreatic cancer.
The Connection Between Periodontitis and Pancreatic Cancer
Periodontitis affects the gum tissue around the teeth, causing significant inflammation and then eventually very serious health problems. It has been linked to oral cancer, which isn’t surprising since the cancer occurs in the mouth where the periodontitis is present.
What many people have found surprising is that periodontitis is also connected to a cancer that occurs in an entirely different part of the body, pancreatic cancer. This added connection is enough to mean that periodontitis actually impacts the cancer mortality numbers in the population as a whole.
The Pancreatic Cancer Study: What it Revealed
The study that revealed the periodontitis and pancreatic cancer connection was published in the British Journal of Cancer, a highly respected publication in the medical field. This study marks the first time that it’s been proved that the bacteria causing periodontitis — scientifically this bacteria is known as Treponema denticola — can actually be connected to cancer onset.
One interesting note in the study was that the main reason the Treponema denticola bacteria is so damaging is an enzyme called Td-CTLP proteinase. This enzyme is often found in cancerous tumors in the body, most notably in pancreatic cancer. This enzyme is particularly damaging because it’s capable of activating other enzymes — the same enzymes that enable cancer cells to get into and destroy otherwise healthy body tissues. Another reason why this enzyme is so damaging is that it is capable of decreasing immune system function by essentially turning off enzyme inhibitor molecules in your body.
When these things are added together, it’s quite clear that periodontitis and pancreatic cancer appear to be linked. By extension, this means that good oral hygiene and dental care is absolutely crucial so that you can avoid the development of periodontitis.
The Signs of Periodontitis to Watch For
Your dentist will check for signs of periodontal disease during regular check-ups. However, it’s also wise to be aware of the warning signs of periodontitis or other periodontal disease. The exact signs can vary based on how advanced the periodontitis is, but all signs should be taken very seriously — especially now that the cancer connection has been revealed. These signs include:
- Swelling in your gums
- A puffy appearance to your gums
- Discoloration in your gums: in periodontitis, the gums typically turn darker rather than lighter. This means that you might notice that your gums are a bright red color, a deep red color, or even a purplish color.
- Gums that are tender or sore when you touch them or apply any pressure to them
- Gums that bleed often, for example gums that bleed every time you brush your teeth
- Newly developed gaps between your teeth
- Gum tissue that starts to recede: this means that your teeth will appear larger than they used to
- A pus discharge from your gums: pus may build up in the pockets in between your teeth and gums
- Chronic bad breath
- Teeth that have started to loosen
- Pain when you eat
- A change in your teeth alignment
Many of these symptoms can cause significant discomfort or can even interfere with your regular lifestyle, and they won’t go away on their own. In fact, periodontitis is a disease that can go from bad to worse to awful in a fairly short period of time if you don’t start treatment. You’ll also need to make changes to your regular oral hygiene routine to avoid a recurrence of periodontitis.
Although some types of cancers can’t necessarily be predicted or avoided, it now appears that pancreatic cancer could potentially develop when you have periodontitis. This means swift treatment is crucial.
Vero VIP Implants & Periodontics is a dental care provider that focuses on dental implants and the management of periodontal disease. With the help of Dr. Jeffrey Brown, patients can beat periodontitis — and, possibly, avoid pancreatic cancer. Contact the Vero VIP Implants & Periodontics anytime for help.