Gum disease is deadlier than you think

I realize I don’t write about gum disease that often — but it certainly comes up in conversations with my patients. So when I saw this latest study, I thought it was a good opportunity to touch on this subject here in the Reality Health Check. Because honestly, it’s a discussion that’s long overdue. And once you hear this, you’ll understand why…

Severe gum disease raises your risk of both developing, and eventually dying from, cancer.

In a recent U.S. study of nearly 7,500 people, researchers divided subjects into three categories — those with no or mild gum disease (which is technically referred to as periodontitis), those with moderate gum disease, and those with severe gum disease. And their results showed that having severe periodontitis raises the risk of cancer by nearly a quarter.

Subjects with severe gum disease faced a 24 percent higher risk of cancer in total, compared to subjects without periodontitis. And the risk jumped to 28 percent in subjects who had lost all their teeth. But if you think that’s bad, just keep reading.

With respect to lung cancer, specifically, severe periodontitis more than doubled the risk — even in non-smokers. And unfortunately, the outlook wasn’t much better where colorectal cancer was concerned.

Results linked edentulism (or complete or partial tooth loss attributed to injury, disease, or decay) with an 80 percent increase in risk of this disease — while severe gum disease raised risk by 50 percent overall. (The association was especially strong in subjects who had never smoked — among whom colorectal cancer risk increased more than two-fold with severe periodontitis.)

Results also revealed a significant increase in pancreatic cancer risk with severe gum disease.

And the news only gets worse from there…

Another recent study of 68,000 Finnish patients revealed similarly terrifying trends in cancer mortality. In this cohort, periodontitis was linked to a 33 percent increase in overall risk of cancer death — and more than double the risk of death among patients with pancreatic cancer specifically.

Not only that, but research has identified the bacteria implicated in periodontitis within gastrointestinal tumors, as well. (Yet another example of bacteria’s role in just about every imaginable biological process — a topic I quite literally wrote an entire book on this subject: Boost Your Health with Bacteria.)

The bottom line? Gum health plays a critical role in disease prevention — more so than most people probably realize. Which brings me to one of the more salient points to come of these findings: the need for better dental insurance.

As you likely already know, dental visits can cost a fortune. And a lot of people avoid making them solely because the out-of-pocket expenses are so high. Without dental insurance, which used to be routine, the United States could go from having some of the best teeth in the world, to ranking among the worst. And as this research shows, the impact could be devastating.

Obviously, there aren’t any quick fixes for this problem. Many Americans struggle to afford healthcare coverage of any kind — much less a comprehensive dental plan — and the way things are going, that doesn’t look set to change anytime soon.

In the meantime, I can offer at least one simple and affordable solution: Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 (also known as ubiquinol).

Research shows that there’s a definite link in people with diseased gum tissue with low levels of this critical antioxidant. Which makes sense, because CoQ10 happens to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. So if you’re at risk for gum disease, I’d strongly recommend taking 600 mg — even up to 1,000 mg — of CoQ10 per day.

It’s not a substitute for routine dental care. But it does offer natural protection against periodontitis — and against the countless risks to your life and health that come with it.