Need one more reason to keep your teeth squeaky clean? One word: Cancer.
Studies have shown a link between oral health and such conditions as heart disease and other chronic conditions. But, new research shows that people with plaque build-up on their teeth and gums are also at greater risk for dying of cancer.
The study, conducted over a 24-year period, followed 1,400 Swedish adults. During that time, 58 participants died, 35 from cancer.
Researchers asked participants about risk factors for cancer—such as smoking—and examined plaque buildup, tartar, gum disease and tooth loss. Those who died had more plaque covering their teeth and gums than those who did not die during the course of the study.
The study also found the following:
• People with high amounts of plaque were 79 percent more likely to die prematurely.
• Female participants were 61 years old when they died; men were 60.
• The women would have been expected to live around 13 years longer, and the men an additional 8.5 years. Thus, their deaths were considered premature.
Plaque and Cancer Connection
So what was the link between plaque and cancer? Researchers believe it has to do with inflammation. Persistent plaque on the teeth and gums increases the risk of infection—which can initiate a defense by the immune system in the form of an inflammatory reaction. Up to 20 percent of cancers are caused by an inflammatory process.
That said, the risk of anyone with dental plaque dying early of cancer was low. The important thing to remember is to keep your teeth and gums as plaque-free as possible and have regular dental check-ups. This can help lower your risk of many chronic health conditions—and now even cancer.
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