Prevention or Cure – Dental Plaque and Cancer

There is so much publicised about cancer be it treatment, prevention, fund raising or true stories, but it is rarely you see or hear that much about poor oral health being linked to cancer. This is why when I read this NHS article on Cancer and Dental Hygiene I wanted to comment from a dental professional’s perspective.

The first thing I would say is not to panic if you’ve read the article and have dental plaque. If the one good thing that comes from reading the article is that you visit your dentist more frequently and take better care of your teeth then that’s great. Having a lot of dental plaque on the teeth means there is a lot more microorganisms present than there would be if plaque was minimal, and it has been shown that certain cancers can be related to microorganisms and some viruses.

But good oral hygiene is as essential as other hygiene, for example you should always wash your hands after handling raw meat or using the toilet, if you don’t you could become ill. Promoting the benefits of good oral health and advising on how to avoid problems so people are educated would be better, rather than waiting for the problem to arise and treating it.

What is dental plaque?

Dental plaque is a soft deposit that develops on the teeth and contains a lot of different bacteria. Usually it can be removed by regular brushing and flossing between the teeth. However there is a calcified type of plaque, sometimes called tarter which can only be removed by a dentist. This sticks firmly to the teeth and must be removed using special dental instruments.The build-up of plaque and calculus can cause inflamed or infected gums. Left untreated the gum disease can become more severe and lead to tooth loss. Your teeth are not only used for basic functions such as eating and speaking but can also make or break your appearance as a healthy smile takes years off you.

So don’t wait for a problem, prevent it and do 2 things:
1. Get into a good regular oral cleaning routine
2. Visit your dentist regularly