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Dental plaque may increase cancer death rate

28 June 2012

A recent Swedish study, BMJ Open, found that persistent dental plaque can increase the risk of dying early from cancer. In it, they found that the 35 people who died from cancer had higher plaque levels compared with the rest of the 1400 study participants. Their deaths were considered premature compared with average lifespans. These people were not considered to have gum disease but merely high levels of plaque.

Dental plaque, which is bacteria, on the teeth and gums released toxins in the the blood that reached different parts of the body with cancer that had “potential systemic consequences”. The results remained strong, even after accounting for other potential risk factors that are linked to premature death, as for instance smoking, lower educational attainment, frequency of dental visits, and lower income, the link between age, male gender as well as the amount of dental plaque. 

“The high bacterial load on tooth surfaces and in gingival pockets over a prolonged period of time may indeed play a role in carcinogenesis,” the authors said in the published paper. “Further studies are definitely required, however, to determine whether there is any causal element in the observed association reported here.”.

So while they are not saying that plaque causes cancer, there is an 80% higher risk of premature death than if you had little plaque. We currently know that people with periodontal disease have increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. And the bacteria cause atherosclerosis, the result of which depends on where it occurs.

Another reason to make sure that you pick up that brush before you retire for the night.