Back when we were children our parents urged us to brush our teeth every day, and for plenty of reasons: Cavities, gum disease, early tooth loss. And let’s face it - teeth that don’t get a regular brushing can be a little off-putting. But it’s only recently we’ve learned that poor dental hygiene can also lead to cancer.
This shouldn’t be a total surprise. Inadequate brushing can cause inflammation, which is often associated with cancer. And it’s not the first time that dental issues have been linked to a deadly disease. For example, we’ve known for quite some time that poor oral health can lead to cardiovascular disease. Infectious bacteria flourish in the mouth, migrate to the circulatory system and ultimately damage the heart.
These findings only confirm what Traditional ChineseMedicine and other ancient healing approaches have known for centuries: different systems of the body are highly inter-connected.
The evidence linking cancer to gum disease and other oral health conditions is becoming quite compelling. A recent study conducted in Sweden, and published in the British Medical Journal, followed nearly 1,400 people for 24 years. Researchers found that participants with significant dental plaque, and the bacteria that creates the plaque, tended to die prematurely. Study analysis suggested that poor oral hygiene might increase the risks of early death due to cancer by up to 80 percent.
More research needs to be done - cancer is a complex disease with numerous potential causes. The specific link between dental hygiene and cancer is still being investigated; however, there are other studies that make similar determinations.
Research at the State University of New York investigated the gum health of 266 patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer. They measured bone loss in the tooth socket as evidence of severe gum disease. For every millimeter of bone loss, the risk of contracting bone cancer multiplied by four. This link was independent of high-risk behaviors, such as tobacco and alcohol use.
Fighting Gum Disease
If you’re not brushing and flossing regularly, then it is critical to start. Regular visits to the dentist are also in order. What you eat can make a big difference as well. As you already know, too many sweets and soft drinks can lead to dental infections and decay. On the other hand, nutrient-dense, whole foods and fresh vegetables help control inflammation, improve oral health and reduce infection. Natural supplements, botanicals and nutrients can also keep inflammation and infections at bay.
For example, one study showed that a Tibetan botanical formula dramatically reduced gum inflammation. The formula’s ability to regulate inflammation, support circulation and strengthen the immune system had a profound effect on oral health.
Another beneficial compound is purified honokiol, a Magnolia bark extract, which also provides a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effect. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C, E, A, D-3 and the coenzyme Q10, have also been shown to improve dental health, reduce inflammation and boost immunity. Green tea and calendula reduce inflammation and fight infection.
These supplements are often found in natural mouthwashes as well. Look for a mouthwash product without fluoride that includes natural ingredients.
The System is the Solution
Perhaps there are biological mechanisms that work independently from the rest of the body. If so, we have yet to find them. More and more we are discovering that a healthy mouth translates into a healthy body. The best news of all is that many natural products that protect oral health also support other critical areas, including the cardiovascular system, cellular health, immunity and overall vitality. And remember, the pendulum swings both ways. Anything you do to support one aspect of health, can pay off throughout the rest of your body.