On topic with Dr. Dill: 

The connection between breast cancer and gum disease

One of the most common types of cancer in women in the U.S., breast cancer makes up 30% of all new cancers in women, according to the American Cancer Society. And research suggests that women with gum disease may have a higher risk.

In a study of more than 70,000 post-menopausal women, researchers found a link between gum disease and increased risk of breast cancer. That risk also increased when women had a history of smoking as well as gum disease. In another study, researchers found that women with a history of severe gum disease (also known as periodontitis) had two to three times the risk of developing breast cancer compared to women with no history of the disease.

Why is breast cancer linked to gum disease? 

Scientists don’t have a definitive cause for this link yet, but they do have some ideas. Some research suggests that the development of many cancers could be associated with chronic inflammation and infections, two hallmarks of gum disease. However, more research is needed to understand the connection between gum disease and breast cancer.

What can I do to reduce my risk of gum disease?

Preventing gum disease is easy. Brushing and flossing help prevent buildup of plaque that causes inflammation. Along with regular dental checkups, pay attention to any puffiness, consistent bleeding or if your gums are pulling away from your teeth. These can be symptoms of gum disease and warrant a quick appointment with your dentist to make sure everything is OK.

For breast cancer, monthly self-exams are an important diagnostic tool. Be sure to check for any hard lumps or abnormalities in your breast tissue, regardless of your sex. Catching these warning signs early is critical, as starting treatment for any disease right away may help prevent more dangerous outcomes.

Meet Joseph Dill, DDS, Delta Dental’s Chief Dental Officer. With more than 30 years of experience in the dental field, including eight in private practice and 20 in dental insurance, Dr. Dill provides expert insights and helpful advice to keep you smiling bright.