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Oral Cancer Virus Associated With Gum Disease

 

After the discovery that severe gum disease can be associated with a higher risk of head and neck cancer cases caused by the Human Pailloma Virus (HPV), The British Dental Health Foundation aims to educate the public on good oral health. Researchers discovered that in comparison with patients with HPV-negative tumors, those with HPV-positive tumors had a considerably higher bone loss, which is a key element for developing severe gum disease. 

According to the latest figures, over 6,000 people in the UK have oral cancer, a disease that claims nearly 2,000 lives. The incident rates of oral cancer due to HPV are increasing, with experts indicating that within a decade, HPV may rival tobacco use as the main cause for oral cancer. Other risk factors for oral cancer include smoking, excessive drinking and poor diet. 

The importance of the research is even more significant as it also shows that more teeth are lost through periodontal (gum) disease than through tooth decay. 

In a study, published in the Archives of Otolaryngology, the researchers examined 124 patients with oral cancer and discovered that the cancer in 50 patients was a result of HPV. Lead researcher Mine Tezal, D.D.S., Ph.D., of the University at Buffalo said: "Periodontitis is easy to detect and may represent a clinical high-risk profile for oral HPV infection." 

This is not the first time that poor oral health and cancer have been associated with each other. However, further research is needed to determine the precise relationship between the link of severe gum disease and a higher risk of HPV-related oral cancer. According to a recent study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, failing to clean your teeth properly could raise the risk of premature death due to cancer. The Swedish team discovered that high levels of dental plaque, which causes gum disease, and cancer mortality can result in an up to 13-year earlier premature death. 

Both study results combined provide even stronger evidence that good oral health is vital said Dr. Nigel Carter, OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, saying:
 

"A greater understanding of how we can tackle this potentially life-threatening disease could lead to many lives being saved. Most of us suffer from gum disease at some point in our lives, yet it is entirely preventable. By developing and keeping a good oral health routine it lowers the risk of gum disease and any possible links to more serious diseases. We should all take time to reflect on how we can make that a reality."

"Brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning in between teeth daily with interdental brushes or floss, cutting down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend will be a great starting point. If you have swollen gums that bleed regularly when brushing, bad breath, loose teeth or regular mouth infections appear, it is likely you have gum disease."


Carter adds: "It is also vital to check regularly for early warning signs of mouth cancer. These include ulcers, which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth. If you are in any doubt, please get checked out." 

He concludes: "Prevention or treatment of sources of inflammation in the oral cavity may be a simple yet effective way to reduce the acquisition and persistence of oral HPV infection."

Written by Petra Rattue

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