The Bleeding Obvious™ Vol 10 – The Intriguing Connection Between Periodontal Disease and Oral Cancer

By Dr Richard Johnston

Oral health is an essential aspect of overall well-being, and recent research has shed light on the intriguing links between seemingly unrelated conditions. One such connection is the relationship between periodontal disease and oral cancer. Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is a prevalent condition affecting the supporting structures of the teeth, while oral cancer refers to cancers that develop in the mouth and throat. While these two conditions might appear distinct, emerging evidence suggests a complex interplay between them.

Periodontal disease is characterised by inflammation and infection of the gums, which can lead to tissue damage and tooth loss if not managed properly. Oral cancer, on the other hand, encompasses a range of malignancies that can affect the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, and throat. While they may have different causes and risk factors, researchers have observed shared elements that underscore a potential relationship between the two.

One significant factor linking periodontal disease and oral cancer is chronic inflammation. In periodontal disease, the immune response triggered by the infection results in sustained inflammation. Chronic inflammation is also a recognised contributor to the development and progression of various cancers, including oral cancer. The inflammatory environment can create favourable conditions for the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Moreover, some of the risk factors for periodontal disease and oral cancer overlap. Tobacco use, both smoking and vaping, and excessive alcohol consumption are established risk factors for both conditions. These substances can compromise the immune system, impair tissue healing, and increase the likelihood of genetic mutations that can lead to cancer. Poor oral hygiene is another common factor; inadequate oral care can contribute to the development of periodontal disease and potentially create an environment conducive to oral cancer growth.

Recognising the potential links between periodontal disease and oral cancer underscores the importance of maintaining good oral health. Regular dental check-ups, proper oral hygiene practices, and timely treatment of periodontal disease are not only essential for preserving teeth and gums but may also contribute to reducing the risk of oral cancer.

In conclusion, the connection between periodontal disease and oral cancer is a fascinating area of study. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms at play, it is evident that chronic inflammation, shared risk factors, and potentially harmful bacteria all contribute to the complex relationship between these conditions. Prioritising oral health through regular dental care and healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way in promoting overall well-being and reducing the risk of both periodontal disease and oral cancer.

*Links between oral health and general health – the case for action – published by Dental Health Service Vic.

To book an appointment with Dr Johnston simply call Beerwah Dental at 07 5494 0766 or visit to book online