Open wide. There’s a host of researchers peering inside your mouth, and you may be surprised at what they hope to find.
They’re looking for a connection between gum disease and illnesses such as breast cancer and even dementia.
What they’re seeing in there is intriguing: possible relationships between gum or periodontal disease and diabetes, heart disease, stroke and at-risk pregnancies.
Some studies have been pursuing an association between bleeding gums and pancreatic cancer. Others are looking at whether there’s a connection between mouth bacteria and Alzheimer’s.
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But experts are far from understanding what these links might mean. Studies’ conclusions are carefully phrased to avoid implying that they are definitive, because the exact role of our gums in overall health has yet to be determined. It could be that gum disease exacerbates other diseases, or gum disease might be a symptom of other conditions.
In the meantime, extra dental care for those with gum disease and certain at-risk conditions has become common, pragmatic practice.
By Suzanne Allard Levingston