Preventing Periodontitis And The Risk Of Neck Cancer

Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that destroys the soft tissue and bone that supports the teeth. Periodontitis can cause tooth loss or worse, an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and other serious health problems. Chronic periodontitis is a form of gum disease, it is a typical type that most adults older than age 35 have. It is an independent risk factor for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. This proposes that increased efforts are needed to prevent and treat periodontitis, as it is a possible mean to reduce the risk of this form of cancer.

Periodontitis that begins in childhood or early adulthood is called aggressive periodontitis. Prevent periodontitis; if you have it already, get treatment and maintain good oral hygiene,” said Mine Tezal, D.D.S., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Oral Diagnostic Sciences, School of Dental Medicine and University at Buffalo, and NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences at the University of Buffalo. The characteristics of chronic periodontitis are progressive loss of the bone and soft tissue attachment that surround the teeth. The researchers assessed the role of chronic periodontitis on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, as well as the individual roles on three subsites: oral cavity, oropharyngeal and laryngeal. They used radiographic measurement of bone loss to measure periodontitis among 463 patients; 207 of whom were controls.

Results showed that chronic periodontitis might represent a clinical high-risk profile for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. The strength of the association was greatest in the oral cavity, followed by the oropharynx and larynx. When the relationship by tobacco use was stratified, it was seen that the association persisted in those patients who never used tobacco. The researchers did not expect the periodontitis-head and neck squamous cell carcinoma association to be weaker in current smokers compared to former and never smokers. However, this interaction, although statistically significant, was not very strong. Tezal said that confirmatory studies with more comprehensive assessment of smoking, such as duration, quantity and patterns of use, as well as smokeless tobacco history are needed. The study also suggests that chronic periodontitis may be associated with poorly differentiated tumor status in the oral cavity. Continuous stimulation of cellular proliferation by chronic inflammation may be responsible for this histological type. However, grading is subjective and can only be observed through association in the oral cavity.

Therefore, this association may be due to chance and further exploration is needed. Andrew Olshan, Ph.D., said these findings lend further support to the potential importance of poor oral health in this form of cancer. Olshan is professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and professor in the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, School of Medicine, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study of poor oral health including the possible carcinogenic role of microorganisms is part of a rapidly growing interest in how a community of microbes that live in the various environments of the human body can affect health. Although the study is comparatively small, the researchers were able to also see an association between bone loss and the risk of head and neck cancer. Periodontitis is common but largely preventable. Periodontitis is usually the result of poor oral hygiene. Daily brushing and flossing and regular professional dental cleanings can greatly reduce the chance of developing periodontitis and the risk factors resulting due to these diseases especially cancer.