November 23, 2022
It's no secret that poor oral health can lead to a host of other health problems. But did you know that it could also lead to esophageal cancer? It's true!
In fact, studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between the two. So if you're not taking care of your teeth and gums, you might want to start thinking about it.
Here, we'll look at the evidence that links poor oral health and esophageal cancer, as well as what you can do to protect yourself.
Poor Oral Health & Esophageal Cancer
Studies have shown that people who suffer from periodontal disease (gum disease) are more than twice as likely to develop esophageal cancer.
This link has been found in both men and women and across different ethnicities. Besides, several kinds of research have also been conducted on PDX models.
The reason for this connection is that the inflammation caused by gum disease could lead to changes in the cells of the esophagus which increase its vulnerability to cancer-causing agents.
How To Identify If You Have Esophageal Cancer?
Esophageal cancer is typically divided into two categories: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
• Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of esophageal cancer and often begins in the upper part of the esophagus, near the entrance to the stomach.
• Adenocarcinoma occurs more frequently in the lower portion of the esophagus and is associated with acid reflux disease (GERD).
Other types include small-cell carcinoma and large-cell carcinoma.
Symptoms & Causes
Esophageal cancer can be caused by several factors, including smoking and heavy alcohol use. Poor oral health has also been linked to an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.
However, with increased awareness and active research for cancer treatment, it is possible to take the right preventive measures.
If you think that you’re at risk for esophageal cancer due to poor oral hygiene, there are some signs to look out for
• You may experience difficulty swallowing or have pain when eating, along with chronic heartburn or acid reflux that does not go away after taking antacids.
• Other possible symptoms include hoarseness in the voice, blood in vomit or stools, unintended weight loss, chest pain, and the feeling of a lump in the throat.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor immediately for an evaluation.
How Can Poor Oral Health Lead To Esophageal Cancer?
a. Poor oral hygiene, such as not brushing your teeth regularly or not flossing, can lead to chronic inflammation in the mouth and throat area. This can increase the chances of developing abnormal cells in these areas, which may eventually become cancerous.
b. The bacteria found in plaque on the teeth can also travel through the digestive system and reach other parts of the body where it could cause further damage and create an environment for cancer to develop.
c. Additionally, individuals with dry mouths or who take certain medications that reduce saliva production are more likely to contract this type of cancer due to a lack of protection from saliva’s natural cleansing properties.
Common Bacterias That Lead To Esophageal Cancer
Poor oral health has been linked to a higher risk of esophageal cancer due to the presence of certain bacteria in the mouth.
1. Streptococcus Mutans
The most common bacteria linked to esophageal cancer is Streptococcus Mutans, which are found in plaque and dental tartar.
When this bacteria builds up in the mouth, it can travel through the digestive system and into other parts of the body, including the esophagus.
2. Human Papillomavirus
Another virus that has been linked to esophageal cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV).
This virus is spread through contact with an infected person’s saliva or skin, so poor oral hygiene can increase a person’s risk of contracting HPV if they come into contact with someone who has the virus.
3. Candida Albicans
In addition, poor oral hygiene can also lead to an overgrowth of Candida albicans (an opportunistic fungus) in your mouth and throat.
This fungus has been linked to an increased risk of esophageal cancer, so it's important to keep your mouth clean and healthy.
4. Other Indirect Causes
Additionally, people with poor oral health are more prone to developing dental cavities and gum disease, both of which can lead to inflammation in the esophagus and an increased risk of developing cancer.
How Do These Bacterias Travel Through The Body?
When these bacteria enter the digestive system through the stomach, they can damage the cells and increase your risk for cancer.
This is especially true if you suffer from gum disease or are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke, which can further irritate and inflame the lining of your esophagus.
For these reasons, it is essential that people maintain good oral hygiene habits in order to reduce their risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Other Cancer Types That May Be Linked To Bad Oral Habits
Poor oral health can be a contributing factor to more than just esophageal cancer. In fact, the bacteria that are associated with poor oral hygiene have been linked to other types of cancers as well.
• These include head and neck cancers, such as those found in the mouth, throat, and larynx, tongue cancer, gum cancer, and even pancreatic cancer.
• Poor oral hygiene can also lead to an increased risk of developing leukemia or lymphoma.
• In addition to these forms of cancer, research has shown that people who suffer from chronic periodontitis may be at a greater risk for developing kidney or lung cancer.
This is because some of the same bacteria found in poor oral hygiene have also been linked to these particular diseases.
According to research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, people who smoke and consume alcohol excessively are more likely to develop these types of cancers which are directly caused by poor oral health.
How Can Tobacco And Alcohol Further Worsen Your Oral Health?
Smoking and alcohol consumption can further increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer due to their effects on your oral health.
• Smoking causes inflammation, and gum disease, and increases plaque buildup on the teeth which can lead to chronic irritation of the mouth and throat area.
• Alcohol is a known irritant for the tissues in this region as well and when combined with smoking, it causes an increased risk of developing tumors or abnormal cells that could eventually lead to cancer.
Therefore, individuals should limit their use of tobacco products as well as limit their consumption of alcohol in order to reduce their chances of developing esophageal cancer.
What Can You Do To Lower The Risk Of Esophageal Cancer?
The best way to protect yourself from the risks associated with poor oral health is to practice good oral hygiene.
• Brush and floss your teeth twice a day, use an antiseptic mouthwash daily, and visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings.
• Eating a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can also help support a healthy immune system and help ward off infection.
• Quitting smoking or avoiding second-hand smoke can help reduce inflammation in the digestive tract as well. You can switch to smokeless tobacco products.
• Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated can also help reduce risk factors associated with esophageal cancer.
By taking these steps, you can dramatically reduce your risk of developing esophageal cancer.
How To Seek Help If You Think You May Have Esophageal Cancer?
The doctor will perform a physical examination as well as order tests such as imaging scans or endoscopy procedures to look for cancerous cells in the esophagus and rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes and other treatments if they suspect you are at risk of developing esophageal cancer due to poor oral health.
By talking to your doctor about any concerns you may have regarding esophageal cancer, you can take steps to reduce your risk and receive the most appropriate treatment options available.
What Are The Treatment Options Available For Esophageal Cancer?
The treatment options for esophageal cancer depend on the size and stage of the tumor as well as other factors such as age, overall health, and preferences.
Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments.
• Surgery is usually used to remove tumors that are localized to the esophagus.
• Radiation therapy is used to kill cancer cells in the affected area and reduce the risk of recurrence.
• Chemotherapy can also be used before or after surgery to help shrink tumors or reduce the chance of recurrence.
Other therapies such as targeted drug therapy, immunotherapy, photodynamic therapy, and endoscopic laser ablation may also be available depending on individual cases.
Improve Oral Hygiene & Reduce The Risk Of Severe Diseases
Although the connection between poor oral hygiene and cancer is still being studied, it is crucial to take care of your teeth and gums in order to reduce the risk of developing these types of diseases.
It is important to remember that esophageal cancer is relatively rare and the majority of cases are treatable. With proper prevention and awareness, we can all help lower our risk for a variety of diseases—including esophageal cancer.
Talk to your dentist or doctor today to learn more about how to keep your mouth healthy and protect yourself from serious health problems down the line.
So, take care of your teeth and gums, and lower your risk for this potentially deadly disease!