Swedish study unearths possible link between dental plaque and cancer deaths
12th June 2012
More evidence to support the need for people to have good dental hygiene has emerged as Swedish scientists claim there may be a possible link between persistent dental plaque, and the risk of dying from cancer. Dental plaque is a pale yellow coloured soft deposit that forms naturally on the surface of teeth. It contains many types of bacteria (germs). Poor dental hygiene has been linked to many numerous health problems in the past, such as erectile dysfunction, which Medical Specialists Pharmacy managing director David Bailey first commented on last year within the ‘In The Press’ section of the website and we reported about again only last month. The findings of this study have been published in the ‘BMJ Open’ online journal. The authors analysed the lives of nearly 1,400 Swedish adults between the years 1985 to 2009. All subjects were selected at random and all were in their 30s and 40s at the beginning of the study. Participants were asked questions in relation to anything that could increase their chance of getting cancer, such as smoking habits and their level of affluence. In addition, their mouth hygiene was also evaluated over this time period. After the 24 years had passed, it was noted that 58 of the patients had died and 35 of these deaths were due to cancer. The researchers found that within those who had died, there was a substantially elevated level of dental plaque in comparison to the patients who were still alive. The results were determined via a ‘dental plaque index’ and those who had died were registered between 0.84 to 0.91 on the index and the survivors saw their scores significantly lower, between 0.66 to 0.67. From the patients who had died during the study period, it was discovered that the average age of death for both sexes was much lower than the normal life expectancy figures. The women’s average age of death was 61 and for men it was 60. Respectively, this is 13 and 8.5 years lower than what would usually be expected and authors say their deaths can be considered premature. The researchers concluded that dental plaque could be linked to a 79% increased chance of an early death and said, “Our study hypothesis was confirmed by the finding that poor hygiene, as reflected in the amount of dental plaque, was associated with increased cancer mortality.” However, they have argued that is not yet definitely known that dental plaque contributes to cancer and further studies into the connections between dental plaque and cancer will need to be carried out in the near future.