New research has confirmed that Periodontal Disease (gum disease) is not only a contributor to heart disease, but now is a major risk factor to pancreatic cancer.  According to the Journal of National Cancer Institute 216 men were followed for 16 years and they concluded that periodontal disease increased the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 64 percent. 

I would like to describe what periodontal disease is to those who may have bad breath, bleeding gums when brushing or have unexplained loose teeth.  Periodontal disease is usually not painful until it is too late when the teeth need to be extracted or major treatment is necessary to save them. My advice is to not wait until it hurts.  The following description may seem a bit technical, but stay with me as this is important to understand.  I have tried to break it down into a reader friendly description.

To understand the disease process it is important to understand the anatomy of the structures that support the teeth.  A tooth consists of a crown (1/3 of the length) and the root (2/3 of the length).  Roots attach to the bone by an elastic fiber called the periodontal ligament.  This allows the teeth to move within the bone and is also the structure affected when periodontal disease begins.

The word periodontal means perio (around) dontal (dentes or teeth).  The term periodontal therefore means around the teeth.  An older term has been known as pyorrhea.  Signs of periodontal disease include looseness of the teeth, bad breath, showing more tooth when you smile (which is caused by more root surface being exposed), and bleeding of the gums when you brush or floss.  Bacteria are present in everyone’s mouth and are quite normal and necessary to sustain life.  Disease begins when high levels of destructive bacteria and plaque are allowed to build up on the teeth over an extended period of time. The bodys defense mechanism is the immune system.  Certain immune cells in the body are turned on and produce enzymes that kill off the invading bacteria.  Enzymes are proteins that break down the structure of the bacteria, but while killing off the bacteria, the enzymes also start to dissolve the bone and supporting periodontal ligament.

When you brush and floss you not only physically remove the bacteria, but you introduce oxygen into the plaque.  If you don’t floss you miss the plaque between the teeth where periodontal disease usually starts.  These anaerobic (which means without oxygen), bacteria are susceptible to oxygen and when the hygienist cleans your teeth she not only disrupts the bacterial growth, but also introduces oxygen into the area killing the bacteria.

If we diagnose periodontal disease, treatment consists of cleaning and removing the toxins that attach to the root surfaces of the teeth and surrounding soft tissue.  This is done using local anesthesia to make the treatment as easy and comfortable as possible. We recommend the use of a special device called the shower floss ( This simply attaches to the shower head allowing for a steady, high pressure stream of water to penetrate and flush out the toxins between the teeth.  When water is forced between the teeth the bacteria are disturbed which improves the health of the soft tissues that support the teeth. 

We also highly recommend antioxidants to increase the body’s immune status and fight the bacterial invasion that comes with periodontal disease.  If you would like to read about the use of antioxidants please visit archived article on our website blog at

Because periodontal disease is so prevalent and has such an impact on our health please give us a call at (586)247-3500 for a free periodontal screening.  Just mention this article for the free screening.

Shelby Township Dentist Explains How Periodontal Disease Can Lead to Pancreatic Cancer