Regular dental visits reduce longterm cancer burdens

Here's yet another reason to floss, and to end the baffling distinction that health insurers make between our mouths and the rest of our bodies:

big study of more than 7,000 people out in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reports that people found to have severe gum disease had a 24 percent higher risk of cancer compared with those with mild or no gum disease.

You might look to cigarettes for the explanation — smoking increases both the risk of gum disease and of cancer — but the researchers adjusted for smoking and still found higher cancer risk from severe gum disease alone.

I spoke with lead author Dominique Michaud of the Tufts University School of Medicine. Our edited conversation:

And these findings add to the absurdity of thinking about dental health as separate from our physical health, right?

I agree with you that it is completely ridiculous, because there is so much evidence. Cancer is just one of the outcomes that are linked to gum disease, but there are many others — diabetes, stroke, possibly premature birth. There's a growing amount of data showing how important your mouth is, and how it's connected to so many other things in your body. It's a gateway. It has a huge impact on the immune response.

So the health in your mouth will have a lot of repercussions, cancer being one of them but there are many others. It makes no sense to me either that dental care should not be part of general health insurance because it is very, very much tied to so many chronic conditions. There are just a lot of things that could be prevented if only we had dental insurance as part of health insurance.

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