Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, and author of the bestselling book Age With Style— A Guide to a Youthful Smile and Healthy Living, discusses how gum disease and cancer are related.

Gum disease and cancer are related in many ways. One thing that is common with cancer patients is that they have gone through some sort of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. And what those therapies do is they reduce the immune response and actively divide cells, which are going to be saliva in the mouth. So, it creates a dry environment for the mouth. It creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to overgrow, especially the bad ones, and that leads to cavities and gum disease. And the other thing that happens, so there’s a specific strain of bacteria. Treponema denticola and that bacteria is known to create a specific factor.

So, that factor is what it does, it’s linked to cancer cells, it makes them divide even more. And so we want to make sure that you don’t start with gum disease and make sure that’s cleaned up, number one. Number two, if you have experienced cancer, whether it’s breast cancer, lung cancer, what have you, make sure that the gums are cleaned regularly and also a regimen is in place for you to make sure that you can avoid gum disease and cavities so that you can avoid any future problems.