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Published On: Thu, Sep 27th, 2012

Dental Health, Inflammation, Immunity & Cancer……..Tips on Staying Healthy

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-by Dr. Leone Henrique Molena, DDS

There is a significant relationship between keeping one’s teeth, gums, and oral cavity healthy and the reduction of cardiac and inflammatory conditions of the entire body, immune compromises, and the uprooting of either new, or a relapse of “in remission” cancerous conditions.

When we focus in on “dental health” it should be understood that it is not just the teeth and gums we are zeroing-in on, but on all tissues that make up the mouth in general, including the tongue. How many times do you hear of a dentist discovering a growth (whether it be benign or cancerous), in, around, or under the tongue, that would be commonly missed or overlooked by an internist or other physician during a routine check-up or even a specific total body examination? Because the dentist is trained to look at all problems and things that appear “suspicious” when it comes to the mouth, many times a dentist is more thorough during an examination. Opening the mouth and saying “Ah”,  really doesn’t do justice here.

Today, many dentists are also either internally trained in various aspects of nutrition, and many even seek post-doctoral training.  Many physicians  should consider this educational exposure, as so many are either not well-versed nor trained in nutrition by their medical schools, and the ones who are trained, are usually done so in an abbreviated manner.  

What many physicians and dentists fail to tell their patients is that the majority of external sources of infections and inflammations enter through the mouth and gums.  These infections and/or inflammations can travel via the blood and lymph through the body and situate themselves in vital tissues and organs.  One very common organ that is affected is the heart and heart valves.  Many times this attack is unavoidable and this is why it is imperative that one keeps their immune system as strong as possible.  But as strong as your immune system may be, there are certain dental and oral  preventive and hygiene tips that can be good to remember and to apply;  

1. If you’ve been ill, and when you have recovered, dispose of your old toothbrush you were using and invest in a new one. Although this seems like the logical thing to do, most people don’t ever think of doing this.  The bristles of the toothbrush are havens for bacteria already, even under the best conditions, and you certainly don’t want to re-infect yourself while your immune system is not at its best and is trying to recover.

2. When done brushing, keeping your toothbrush covered or keeping it soaking in a sterile-type mouth-wash solution (i.e., Listerine) would be best.  For instance, when your toilet flushes, believe it or not, microscopic fecal matter circulates around the bathroom and can settle on the bristles of your toothbrush. This is pretty nasty indeed!!!!

3. Speaking of the typical mouth wash solutions, many of them contain alcohol. As good as a disinfectant that alcohol is, it dries out the mouth. When you dry out the mouth and diminish the amount of saliva present over a period of time, this increases the chances of bacterial invasion, infection, and poor immunity.  Saliva not only aids in “diluting” harmful bacteria and washing it away, but also has innate disinfectant properties.  There are also various enzymes present in saliva that act to begin the break-down of food, such as amylase for the digestion of carbohydrates. The best thing to do is to find an alcohol-free, natural mouth wash to use for these purposes and save the alcohol-based solutions for soaking and storing of the toothbrush.

4.  Many folks forget that a lot of bacteria and yeast can build up on the  surfaces of the tongue-many times you can clearly see it, especially when a bacterial or yeast infection is already systemically active, as it is in so many of the woman who suffer from vaginal yeast infections.  This yeast thrives in moist, warm areas of the body-the tongue is one of them for sure. Many folks will simply brush the tongue with the toothbrush.  This is a really bad idea for 2 reasons;

a.    Brushing the tongue will cause the bristles of the toothbrush to collect     the bacteria and yeast, etc…then, when you go to brush your teeth, all this “pathological debris” will be physically “pushed” into the gum line, and will eventually go through the gums, into the circulation…and then into the body in general; (i.e., a great way to infect the cardiovascular system).

b.    Even a soft-bristle toothbrush being pushed up against the ventral surface of the tongue can do a lot of damage.  The tongue is composed of small tissue projections called papillae which are responsible for the higher sensitivities of touch, taste and smell.  Because the papillae are “bumpy”, the back and forth pushing movement of the bristles will damage them.  There are “tongue scrapers” made specifically for this that are smooth and physiologically compatible for tongue scraping. Even a spoon edge can be used for this, but if it is, it must be completely smooth.

A Cancer Relationship?….Yes There Is!!!!

Proper brushing, flossing, and following most (or hopefully all) of the above suggestions should aid in keeping excess bacteria, yeast, virus-instigators, etc., out of your body and help keep not only local, but most importantly, systemic inflammation down to a minimum.  This, in-turn, will help to keep your immune system strong, especially as we get older when the immune system needs as much assistance as we can give it.  Besides warding-off many types of the common cold and flu, as well as numerous inflammatory conditions that can damage the entire body, following a good dental and oral health protocol may also reduce one’s risks of many cancers.  

Leaving cancers of the mouth/oral cancers aside, it is pretty obvious that by practicing good oral hygiene and the precautionary measures already listed  will lower the risks of these types of cancers.  (For instance, the long-term use of chewing tobacco and other similar products can lead to extreme damage to the mouth, gums, and periodontal structures. This causes irritation of the oral tissues and gums, inflammation, toxicity of the entire oral cavity/surrounding structures, cancers, etc…and many can invade bone matrices.)

What about the relationship between dental/oral health and systemic and seemingly unrelated-type cancers; for instance, breast cancer, which strikes about one (1) in every seven (7) woman sometime during their lives., lung cancer, cancers of the GI-tract and pancreatic cancer. Although this is not a “mainstream topic” when looking at causes and instances of these cancers, there is a significant relationship!

From the Department of Dental Medicine, Karolinska Institute (Sweden), it was exhibited that there is a significant relationship between periodontal disease and the onset of breast cancer, [Soder, B. and Yakob, M. (2011) Periodontal disease may associate with breast cancer.  Breast Cancer Res. Treat., 127, 497]. In this large populous study, investigators looked at the associations between breast cancer, periodontal disease, and missing molars.  In the subjects with both periodontal disease and any missing mandibular (lower jaw) molars, 5.5% of these woman tested positive for breast cancer compared to only 0.5%, (breast cancer positive), with periodontal disease but no missing molars of the mandible. Although this specific study concluded that chronic periodontal disease indicated by missing molars apparently associates statistically with breast cancer, it also may present more pertinent information than meets the eye.

Regardless of the situation, a missing molar, (or any tooth that is missing), creates an opening in the gum-line and bone. This opening is a perfect and easily accessible channel for bacteria, toxins, viruses, food-breakdown products, etc.,  to enter into the bloodstream and the lymphatic system and cause damage to the heart and other tissues and organs, as well as be the initiator of systemic irritation and inflammatory processes. This in turn, will weaken our immune system and could eventually be the instigator of many different cancers.  This is most probably one of the reasons for the results observed and recorded in the Swedish study. This is just one example!

So we must protect our systems by following good oral/dental health and hygiene. One very protective supplement that can be protective of not only dental/bone health but also breast cancer is Vitamin D (D3), [see; Grant, W.B. and Boucher, B.J. (2011) Low Vitamin D status likely contributes to the link between periodontal disease and breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res. Treat., 128, 907]. This article  states that low Vitamin D status likely contributes to the link between periodontal disease and breast cancer.and there is so much information out there about Vitamin D3!!!!

Another important supplement for maintaining optimal gum health, (and even reversing problems with the gums, (i.e., bleeding gums and pyorrhea), is Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).  (This information/knowledge has been around for a long time but the dental field itself would probably feel better to not “emphasize” this too loudly as it could (AND WOULD) be quite bad for business…if you get the gist!) You can go all the way back to the mid- 1970’s, [see; Wilkinson, E.G., Arnold, R.M. and Folkers, K. (1976) Bioenergetics in Clinical Medicine. VI. adjunctive treatment of periodontal disease with coenzyme Q10. Res.Commun. Chem. Pathol. Pharmacol., 14, 715], and the information is vividly clear from just this simple study alone. Wilkinson and associates showed that in a double-blind treatment study utilizing CoQ10 in patients with periodontal disease and measurable pockets, pocket-depth, periodontal health, calculus and plaque “scores” all improved significantly (p 0.01).  

What CoQ10 also does, is that it allows more molecular oxygen (O2) to get to all aerobic cells, tissues and organs in the body; inclusive here are the gums and the periodontal tissues. Like the rest of the body, the more blood and oxygen that is available for aerobic tissues, the healthier they are- (up to a point-where too much O2 can be toxic also). Besides keeping the gums and periodontal tissues pink, healthy, and thriving,  molecular O2 also aids in the warding-off of cancers. Malignancies thrive in O2-deprived tissues, but do poorly, and do not metastasize as easily, in a well-oxygenated internal environment.

The Last word

Don’t neglect your dental health!!!!

Graduated  in  Brazil at the  University   Of  São  Paulo –  USP – Bauru ,  Dr. Molena has a Private Practice in  Europe (Portugal) and Works as a Science Editor for Nutricula Magazine.
Dr. Molena is a confident communicator who can relate well to dental patients. Having a proven ability to ensure that dental practices in a surgery are continuously updated to provide first rate care to patients and their families. 





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