A bacteria that causes gum disease may aid the growth of cancer cells, according to new research. Published in the journal Immunity, it was discovered the bacteria fusobacterium nucleatum – which has heavy links with gum disease – could hamper the body’s ability to fight off cancer.
When combined with human tissue cells, researchers found the bacteria attached itself to the parts of the immune system responsible for attacking cancer cells, preventing them from performing this function.
Ken Lavery, Consultant in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, believes the research could prove to be invaluable in the fight against cancer.
Lavery said: “This is further evidence for establishing and maintaining good oral hygiene. Oral cancer is on the increase, and anything that people can do themselves to reduce their risk – coupled with a reduction in smoking, drinking alcohol to excess and immunisation against HPV – are all good public health measures. Prevention is infinitely better than having to treat established disease, especially with oral cancer.”
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, added that the research should provide further evidence as to why maintaining good oral hygiene is so important. He said: “Given the bacteria is found in the mouth, it should prompt everyone into improving their oral health. The number of links between low levels of oral health and killer diseases are growing by the minute and should not be dismissed as irrelevant. Brushing your teeth for four minutes during the day doesn’t sound like a life-saving practice, but more and more research suggests it could go a long way to reducing the risk of some of these diseases.
“If further research supports this theory, it places even greater importance on maintaining your oral health. The good news is there is a very simple way to prevent and treat gum disease.
“Gum disease is a very common disease. In fact it’s one of the largest non-communicable diseases worldwide. You need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day. This is done by brushing for two minutes twice a day, last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with fluoride toothpaste, as well as using interdental brushes or floss to clean in between teeth where gum disease starts.
“Regular visits to the dentist for a thorough check-up will help your dentist identify any problems that are developing. If your gums do start to bleed this is a sign that you may have not been cleaning well enough so increase your toothbrushing. If things do not settle within a few days get along to the dentist before problems begin to mount up.”