New research has discovered that women who suffer from gum disease are up to three times more likely to develop breast cancer.
The study1, published in the journal of Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, involved more than 200 women, separated into two groups - those who diagnosed with breast cancer and those that had no history or signs of the disease.
Findings showed those who suffered from periodontitis (severe gum disease), had two to three times higher odds of developing breast cancer.
Researchers believe the link could support the theory that breast cancer could be triggered as the result of a systemic inflammation which originates in the infected gums; they also suggest that bacteria from the mouth may enter the circulatory system through the gums which then may affect breast tissue.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation believes the study provides additional evidence that cancer could be associated with chronic inflammation and infections.
Dr Carter says: "Interestingly, this research shows that there is evidence to support the theory that gum disease can have a much larger impact on the health of our whole body.
"It suggests that severe gum disease is associated with instances of breast cancer and this may be through spread of infection and inflammation starting in the mouth.
"It's important to recognise though that gum disease has not been proven to cause breast cancer, or any other form of the disease and it remains to be seen whether it is just an association.
"More research is required in order to identify the specific relationship, something we very much welcome.
"If we can study periodontal disease and breast cancer in other populations, and if we can do a more detailed study of the characteristics of periodontal disease, it would help us understand more about the relationship."
Leading health charity, the Oral Health Foundation is keen to highlight the potential relationships between poor oral health and systemic diseases to help reduce peoples risk.
Studies have previously identified links between gum disease and potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even dementia.
Gum disease is caused when dental plaque, a film of bacteria which forms on the surface of the teeth, is not removed from the mouth correctly with a good oral care routine.
The first signs of gum disease include; blood on your toothbrush or in the rinsing water when you clean your teeth or gums bleeding when you are eating. After this early stage though there may be few symptoms at all except perhaps persistent bad breath.
If not treated properly gum disease can lead to the tissues supporting the teeth becoming weakened and the teeth eventually falling out or having to be removed.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: "The health risks associated with gum disease are definitely not limited to the mouth, there is clear evidence that it is associated extremely serious health problems.
"This problem is made even worse due to the prevalence of gum disease; it is estimated that it affects half of all adults in the UK and up to 15% of adults are estimated to have severe periodontitis.
"The best way to cut your risk of gum disease is to ensure that you have an effective oral health routine; this should involve brushing your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste.
"You should also clean between your teeth at least once a day with interdental brushes or floss to make sure you are removing bacteria from all areas of the mouth.
"If you feel you have gum disease then you should visit your dentist straight away for a thorough check-up of your teeth and gums. Catching gum disease early is the best way to ensure that it is treated effectively."
1. Sfreddo CS, Maier J, De David SC, Susin C, Moreira CHC. Periodontitis and breast cancer: A case-control study. Community Dent Oral Epidemiology. 2017;45:545-551.