Dental plaque predicts cancer risk

This could be an early indicator of cancer.

A new study, published in the British Medical Journal, shows poor oral hygiene may be associated appears to be a significant predictor of cancer and premature death. Birgitta Söder, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Huddinge, Sweden, and colleagues found that among healthy adults in Sweden plaque build-up increased the relative risk of premature death 79 per cent.

The study was designed to investigate in randomly selected healthy young Swedes, whether the amount of dental plaque, which indicates poor oral hygiene and a potential source of dental infections, is associated with premature death from cancer. The finding, the authors wrote, suggests that increased plaque and associated toxins and enzymes, may be released from the built-up biofilm and enter the bloodstream through the gingival crevice, thus increasing the risk of malignancies.

In 1985 Söder and colleagues initiated a longitudinal study of 1,390 randomly selected, healthy Swedish adults ages 30 to 40, who had no signs of periodontitis at baseline. The participants were followed with periodic checkups including smoking habits and oral health through 2009.

Dental plaque measures were taken at baseline and in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2009.

After multiple logistic regression analysis, Söder and colleagues found age, male gender, as well as the amount of dental plaque were principal independent predictors of mortality at follow-up. Age and male gender almost doubled the risk of dying prematurely.

They added that there were statistically significant differences between dead and living patients “regarding the amount of dental plaque, gingival inflammation, and dental calculus, indicating a significantly poorer dental status in the subjects who died when compared with survivors.”

Söder and co-authors said their hypothesis will require additional studies to determine whether any causal relationship can be derived from the association between poor oral hygiene and cancer mortality.



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  1. Obviously, plaque removal is the mechanism by which such risks may be minimised. The mechanics of such removal ,of necessity, must be complemented by informed decision-making allowed only by effective education. There is significant lack of evidence on effective brushing technique and surely this must be rectified.

  2. Plaque is a soft, sticky film that builds up on your teeth and contains millions of bacteria. It makes teeth “feel fuzzy” to the tongue and is most noticeable when teeth are not brushed. Dental plaque is very harmful for tooth.


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