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Oral Cancer – One More Reason To Keep Your Mouth Clean

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When people talk about keeping the mouth clean, they mostly care about dental consequences of poor oral hygiene. For example, poor hygiene can lead to teeth decay, gum disease and eventual loss of teeth. However, those dental issues aren't the only consequences of poor oral hygiene you should be worried about. A new study has linked gum disease (which is mostly triggered by bad oral hygiene) to the deadly disease of oral cancer.

The Connection

According to the study, fatty acids from two bacteria that cause gum disease may cause Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). KS is a form of cancer that causes abnormal tissue to grow under the skin, especially in the lining of different organs such as the throat, mouth, and nose. The specific bacteria responsible for producing the fatty acids are Porphyromonas gingivalis and Fusobacterium nucleatum, both of which have been linked to gum disease. The disease progresses fast in those who have HIV/AIDS.

The Significance

A potential benefit of this study is that testing for the bacteria can help in the fight of KS cancer. For example, if there is a high level of the offending bacteria in your saliva, you will not only be treated for the gum diseases but also monitored for early signs of the disease. That way you can receive early treatment if cancer strikes; hopefully, before it spreads too much.

Symptoms of KS

The signs and symptoms of KS include red, purple or brown lesions on the skin and mucous membranes, such as the inner linings of the mouth and eyelids. The lesions occur in patches slightly raised above the surrounding areas of the skin. Other symptoms of KS include:

  • Painful swellings on legs and feet, these occur when lesions block the flow of fluids in these parts of the body.
  • Shortness of breath when the lesions attack the lungs.
  • Abdominal issues (including diarrhea and bloody stools) due to lesions in the stomach.

Apart from gum disease, HIV also increases your risk of developing KS. This is mainly because HIV weakens your immunity and increases your vulnerability to other health conditions, including KS.  This is one more reason you ought to be extra careful with your oral hygiene and health if you are living with HIV. Your physician may also prescribe medication for managing the virus to reduce your risk of developing KS.

Once more, the importance of regular teeth brushing and flossing cannot be overemphasized. Every time you notice a change in your oral tissues, whether they are lesions or other things, consult your dentist or physician. Early diagnosis of any dental or medical issue usually leads to better treatment. 

Speak to a professional like Dr. Jon Douglas Lesan, DDS, RpH, PA for more help.