• 3/24/2003
  • Susan Aldridge, PhD
  • American Association of Dental Research

Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are four times more likely to have oral cancer. Periodontal disease is a form of gum disease where the tissue surrounding and supporting the teeth becomes infected and inflamed. Data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey now reveals a link between periodontal disease and oral cancer.

Participants were divided into two groups, depending on the measure of gum detachment from the teeth – a way of assessing the presence of periodontal disease. The researchers, from the University of Buffalo, then determined the presence of oral tumors, precancerous lesions and other problems in the oral cavity. They found that people with periodontal disease were four times more likely to have an oral cancer, and twice as likely to have a precancerous lesion.

This study doesn’t actually prove that periodontal infection causes oral cancer. But infection has been linked to other cancers – for instance, there is an association between Helicobacter pylori infection and stomach cancer. If periodontal disease does cause oral cancer, then there is enormous scope for prevention and earlier diagnosis.

OCF Note: This study was lacking significant control parameters which may have found other commonalities between subjects that would have refuted this generalized finding. This might have include factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use, genetic factors, and other possible co-factors that were not identified in this group of individuals in the study. People with periodontal disease invariably have poor hygiene habits, and likely take less interest in the other factors which lead to a healthy life. OCF would have preferred a study which considered all other commonalities, and posts this story here as an example of science, poorly structured, finding incomplete answers from a myriad of possiblities, and publishing something that is of little value to others.