The public must take note of the signs of gum disease if they are to avoid the risk of mouth cancer.
That’s the warning from the British Dental Health Foundation in the light of two studies released this week that show that people in the UK are increasing their cancer risk by failing to manage their oral health effectively.
This week a large-scale study by Imperial College London has found that people with gum disease are 14% more likely to develop cancer, while the National Dental Survey 2008, conducted by the Foundation and Oral B, found that 29% of people suffer with bleeding gums.
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Foundation, commented: “Bleeding gums are caused by gum disease so it is a concern that such a large proportion of people experience this – especially with the cancer link.
‘Gum disease has already been linked to a range of serious general health conditions including heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and premature births – but the news that it could increase a person’s cancer risk will still be a big concern for people.’
The Health Professionals Follow-up Study was carried out by experts at Imperial College London who analysed the questionnaire-based data of more than 48,000 American males.
Most of the subjects had filled in surveys every two years with questions relating to oral health, tooth loss, gum disease, lifestyle factors and new cancer diagnoses.
The survey found that people with gum disease were 36% more likely to develop lung cancer, 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and 30% more likely to develop hematologic cancers such as leukaemia.
Dr Carter continued: ‘While further research is needed to confirm the link and to see if women are also at risk, these figures are undoubtedly a concern.
‘The latest National Dental Survey has shown that people in the UK need to improve their oral healthcare routines – a worrying 15% brush less than twice a day while 29% brush for less than a minute and this will drastically increase their gum disease risk.
‘Oral health is often considered to be of secondary importance to general health but that is simply not the case. It is high time that people realised that the mouth and the body are part of the same system and so need to be considered accordingly.’
National Smile Month is running from May 18 to June 17 with the theme ‘Brush for Health’ being used to raise awareness of the links between the mouth and the body.
The campaign has been launched in the USA for the first time this year with the Foundation working in conjunction with Oral Health America.
For more information on National Smile Month, go to www.nationalsmilemonth.org.