Oral Cancer, Diabetes and Kidney Disease Among Them

Did you know that your dentist is your first line of defense, not just for your oral health, but for your OVERALL health as well? Don’t believe me? The conditions within your mouth may indicate more serious systemic diseases such as cancer or diabetes and early detection is always the goal. It is estimated that about 90% of systemic diseases in your body are directly related to conditions in your mouth.  Many studies show there are associations between gum disease and the risk of oral cancers, diabetes, preterm birth, kidney diseases, and heart disease. The term that details the link between oral health and other diseases is called “oral-systemic health.” I believe, whole-heartedly that prevention is always better than a cure. To prevent the onset of diseases and to promote the discovery of existing medical conditions, many people are surprised to hear that general dentistry can help improve one’s overall health.

Here are some diseases a dentist could find:

  • Oral cancer/Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Kidney diseases
  • Cardiovascular/heart disease



The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in the United States for 2017 indicate about 49,670 people will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer and from those numbers an estimated 9,700 will die of these cancers. These cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women. Where are the prime locations for symptoms? One guess…

About 70% of oropharyngeal cancers are caused by HPV. Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers occur most often in the tongue, the tonsils, oropharynx, the gums, and floor of the mouth. The rest are found in the lips, the minor salivary glands (which often occur in the roof of the mouth), and other sites. It is imperative that younger populations receive examinations routinely so HPV can be detected since it is a precursor for early onset oral cancer. Based on recent peer-reviewed published data in young oral cancer patients, HPV may soon replace tobacco as the primary causative agent of oral cancer in the initiation of the disease process.



With just under 30 million Americans with diabetes, that’s nearly 10% of the population, knowing your dental professional should be a part of your arsenal in preventing disease or diagnosing it early. With almost 30%, or 8 million people, having undiagnosed diabetes and 57 million people being labeled as “pre-diabetic” having a date with your dentist twice a year should be a permanent mainstay on your calendar to help in early detection. Symptoms you may experience are dry mouth, which left unattended, can lead to ulcers, infections, gum inflammation, thrush, bad breath and tooth decay. Another indicator is periodontal disease. With nearly 65 million people being undiagnosed or labeled “pre-diabetic”, seeing your dentist could alert you to other ailments and help you seek treatment before your diabetes becomes out of control. Good diabetic control is the BEST protection against periodontal disease as research shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among this population. Early detection on both sides, dental or medical, allows for early intervention to ward off invasive and expensive treatments later.


Pregnancy Complications:

During pregnancy, hormones make your gums more easily irritated by plaque and can cause gums to be red, tender, sore and bleed. You may feel like your teeth are a bit loose. According to the Mayo Clinic, progesterone and estrogen can loosen the ligaments and bones that keep your teeth in place, even if you don’t have gum disease. Unfortunately, morning sickness can hit any time of the day. Vomit contains stomach acids that can eat away at your teeth, so waiting to brush after you’ve rinsed your mouth can help prevent those acids from doing damage. Complications can occur due to poor oral health habits. You’re more tired when your body is changing, you’re physically more sensitive so maybe switch to a softer bristle brush, but don’t let previous poor oral fitness™ continue or develop during this time as poor habits have been associated with premature delivery, intrauterine growth restriction, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. As many as half of all women develop pregnancy gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease that is most common between the second and eighth months of pregnancy. All the same rules apply, brushing and flossing twice a day and receiving your routine check-ups.

There are precautions taken for certain dental procedures when pregnant. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees that procedures like cavity fillings and crowns are safe and important to have during pregnancy to prevent potential infection.  Cosmetic procedures, like whitening, should wait until after your baby arrives.


Kidney Disease:

According to the National Kidney Foundation one out of nine Americans suffers from chronic kidney disease. The disease can affect blood pressure and bone health and can eventually lead to heart disease or kidney failure. Further discovery has reinforced the connection between general and oral health - this time linking periodontal disease to kidney problems. A study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at the renal-periodontal link. They found that just over 40% of their participants had periodontal disease. The destructive nature of chronic inflammation may play a role in the higher prevalence of chronic kidney disease. The participants with periodontal disease were much more likely to have renal insufficiency - a chronic condition that results in slowly progressing reduction in kidney function that can lead to renal failure. Acute renal failure is potentially life-threatening and may require intensive treatment. The study was prompted because patients with renal insufficiency have many of the same risk factors as patients with heart disease – which many studies have already linked to periodontal disease.


Cardiovascular/Heart Disease:

Cardiovascular/heart disease is an unfortunate risk when bacteria from inflammation of the gums and periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and travel to the arteries in the heart and cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This can cause an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The inner lining of the heart can also become infected and inflamed.

Prevention and preservation should be the normal course of action. Implementing the standard routine of brushing for 2 minutes twice a day and flossing twice a day along with seeing your dentist every 6 months and seeing your dentist if something seems alarming should be sufficient. Prevention cuts down on cost of care as disease is thwarted or caught early on in many cases and potentially less invasive treatments. This proactive approach to dental care should be the standard since your mouth, jaws gums and teeth harmoniously function for you to do the everyday tasks of speaking and eating. Dentists closely evaluate the architecture of your mouth through diagnostic technology.

Regular visits to your dentist arm you with the information to have better overall health. Work in conjunction with your dentist and primary practitioner to ensure you’re always at optimal health. By taking a more active role in your Oral Fitness™, you will be on a healthy path. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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