British Dental Health Foundation Looking to Raise Awareness over Oral Health

Published:July 4th, 2012


The British Dental Health Foundation wants to educate the public about the need for good oral health, as a recent scientific study discovered there could be a link between head and neck cancers caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), and severe gum disease. Severe gum disease can lead to bone loss around the teeth, causing the teeth to become loose, eventually leading to these teeth falling out.

The recently published research looked at 124 patients who had been diagnosed with head or neck cancers. It found 40% of patients had tumours which tested positive for HPV. The study took place over a period of eight years between 1999 and 2007, and included patients who had been diagnosed with cancers of the tongue, lips and mouth, and oropharyngeal cancers that are found right at the back the mouth, and which can affect the tonsils and larynx as well as the vocal cords.

Researchers found 65% of those suffering from oropharyngeal cancers also tested positive for HPV, compared to 21% of laryngeal cancers and 29% of cancers found in the oral cavity. Those who tested positive for HPV also tended to have suffered a higher rate of bone loss around the teeth, especially those suffering from oropharyngeal cancers. The risk of suffering from an HPV positive tumour is estimated to increase by 2.6 times with each millimetre of bone lost. Cancer specialists had already been aware that there could be a link between HPV and this type of cancer, but this latest study underlines the importance of for better dental care to help prevent gum disease.

Around 6,000 people in the UK are suffering from oral cancer, and around a third will lose their lives to this disease. HPV is becoming an increasing factor in oral cancer, and may soon equal tobacco use as being the major cause of oral cancer. At the moment a lot more research is needed to establish the exact link between severe gum disease and oral cancer related to HPV. It’s thought that the bacteria in the mouth from gum disease could make it more susceptible towards contracting HPV.


Lessening your risk of suffering from oral cancer and gum disease

One way of lessening the risk is to make sure any signs of dental diseases such as gum disease are picked up early on. In its early stages gum disease, or periodontal disease is very easy to treat, and this could be one of the simplest ways of helping to reduce the spread of oral HPV infection.

If you notice your gums are beginning to bleed when you brush or floss, or if you suspect you have bad breath, you may be suffering from gum disease. Visiting your dentist at this stage for professional cleaning and a thorough checkup will help ensure it doesn’t progress any further. Your dentist will check your oral tissues to make sure you don’t have any early signs of mouth cancer. These can include white or red patches in the mouth, unusual lumps, and sore patches which don’t heal within a couple of weeks or so.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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