Premature Death from Cancer Linked to Dental Plaque In New Study

The results of a recent study published in the British Medical Journal Open seem to indicate the possibility of a link between risk of premature death due to cancer and persistent dental plaque. The study took place in Stockholm, Sweden and was led by Professor Birgitta Söder. It was pretty comprehensive as it looked at the health of nearly 1,400 Swedish adults over a period of 24 years. The objective of the study was to determine whether or not the amount of dental plaque, which generally indicates poor oral hygiene, could be associated with premature death from cancer.

The study started in 1985 when the participants were all in their 30s and 40s, and continued until 2009. At the beginning of the study all participants were given a questionnaire to discover if there were any factors that might increase their risk of developing cancer. The questionnaire assessed variables such as whether or not they smoked, and their socio-economic status. They also received a clinical assessment. This revealed that while gum disease wasn’t prevalent, there were substantial deposits of plaque on the tooth surface.

By the time the study ended in 2009, 58 people had died. Women accounted for around a third of these deaths, 35 of which were caused by cancer. The average age of death for women was 61, which is around 13 years less than the norm. The average age of death for men was 60 which is about eight and half years less than the norm. Most of the women died from breast cancer, while the men suffered a variety of cancers.

Analysis of the dental plaque index showed it was higher in those who died than in those who had survived, as values were between 0.84 and 0.91 showing the gums had also been covered with plaque. In contrast the plaque index among the survivors ranged from 0.66 to 0.67, showing only partial plaque coverage in the gum area.

In spite of these figures the overall risk of premature death was shown to still be quite low, as just 4.2% of participants had died by the end of the study. Although the amount of plaque in those who had died compared to those who survived was statistically significant, the findings of the study don’t conclusively prove that dental plaque can be linked to premature death from cancer. Professor Söder and her co-authors have pointed out that more research is necessary to discover whether or not there is a causal link between these conditions.

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