Maintain Good Oral Health for a Healthy Body

Maintain Good Oral Health for a Healthy Body

Periodontal disease could be a risk factor for breast cancer and other diseases.


By Rudy Arispe


If you desire to have a healthy body, then you need to have good oral health. The two go hand in hand, advises a doctor of dental surgery at UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry.

Oral Health Tiffany Tavares 1



“The oral cavity and the rest of the body are linked,” Dr. Tiffany Tavares, DDS, a professor of oral medicine in the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry, said. “What can affect the body can affect the oral cavity. You should consider your body an important site to maintain health. The consequences of having oral disease, such as gingivitis or cavities, might not be as life-threatening as kidney or liver disease. But it does not mean it’s not important for your overall health.”


Dr. Tavares notes periodontal disease is also associated with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Furthermore, some recent studies – including research published in “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention” as reported in a 2015 article in Medical News Today – suggest that periodontal disease could be a contributing factor to breast cancer in post-menopausal women.


“Periodontal disease is a potential contributing factor,” Dr. Tavares said. “Different bacteria in the mouth can reach the bloodstream and go into different places and promote inflammation, and that could potentially contribute to tumorigenesis (the formation of a tumor such as cancer). But you wouldn’t have that alone. There would be other contributing factors, such as smoking, exposure to hormones, genetics, among other risk factors. We can’t say with 100 percent certainty that (periodontal disease) definitely is a strong risk factor that could contribute to it, but there is a potential risk.” 


Moreover, Dr. Tavares adds that not only is maintaining good oral health important for patients who have a risk of breast cancer, but oral health can also affect those with osteoporosis. Specifically, there are medications (bisphosphonates and RANKL inhibitors) that post-menopausal women might be taking for osteoporosis, which sometimes are used to treat patients with early breast cancer as well, that have the potential to cause a complication called osteonecrosis of the jaw where patients have exposed bone. 


“This occurs in only a small percentage of patients, but there is definitely a link between poor oral health and an increased risk of getting osteonecrosis from taking these medications,” Dr. Tavares said. “If you need invasive dental treatment after being exposed to these medications, that increases your risk of developing this complication. It’s not a common event, but if you maintain optimal oral health, it can decrease the chance of this rare event happening while being on this medication.” 


To maintain optimal oral health, Dr. Tavares recommends seeing your dentist at least once a year for a checkup. And brushing and flossing at home is key.


“That’s the most important thing you can do to mitigate your risk of cavities and periodontal disease,” she said. “Having a healthy, diverse diet with fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed sugars and having adequate hydration all contribute to good oral health.”


Read the 2015 article by Medical News Today:

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