Women who consume high volumes of folic acid found in vitamin B from vegetables and some fruits are less likely to suffer from mouth cancer. A sample of 87,000 nurses were followed for 30 years from 1976 by researchers from the Columbia University Medical Centre and Harvard School of Public Health.
Women who drank a high volume of alcohol and had low folic acid intake were three times more likely to develop mouth cancer than those who drank high volumes of alcohol but had high volumes of folic acid in their diet. Alcohol is one of the major risk factors for mouth cancer and those who drink to excess are four times more likely to be diagnosed.
This is the first time that folic acid intake has been shown to affect the risk of the disease. Alcohol leads to a reduction in folic acid metabolism by creating acetaldehyde which leads to a reduction of folic acid in the body.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said: ‘Rates of mouth cancer in women have been increasing for many years as a result of changed social habits with more women smoking and drinking.
‘This new research could offer a method to reduce this by looking at the folic acid intake and increasing fruit and vegetables containing folic acid in the diet.
“In the past studies have tended to focus on males, as they are twice as likely to suffer from the disease. While this study focuses on women we know that men also benefit from the protective value of increased fruit and vegetables.”
Folic acid or vitamin B9 is essential to an individual’s health by helping to make and maintain new cells.
Pregnant women are advised to supplement their intake of folic acid, to ensure a healthy development of the baby. Folic acid is found in vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, beans, peas and lentils and is added to bread. Fruit juices, broccoli and brussel sprouts contain smaller amounts.
An unhealthy diet has been linked with around a third of mouth cancer cases.
Recent research has also shown that an increase in food such as eggs and fish that contain omega 3, and nuts, seeds and brown rice, which are high in fibre, can help decrease the risks.
Mouth cancer survival is poor with only around half of cases surviving for 5 years and this is due to late presentation.
Early warning signs to look out for include a mouth ulcer that has not healed within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth and any unusual swelling or lumps in the mouth.
These are all signs that you should get your dentist or doctor to check you out as soon as possible.
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People who inhale second-hand smoke may be at a higher risk from cavities.
That’s according to a study led by Dr Taru Kinnunen, director of the Tobacco Dependence Treatment and Research Programme at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.
Dr Kinnunen said that altought the study was still in its infancy, it found that second-hand smoke caused an increase in risk of cavities because smoke still entered the nasal cavities and the mouth – and, as a result, saliva was impacted.
The premise of the study is that when children are subjected to passive smoke, there is a rise in the number of cavities.
With around 21% of the UK’s population still smoking, the risk of developing mouth cancer, the fifth most common cancer in the UK, is a growing concern amongst those in the dental profession.
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, says: ‘When you consider that your mouth and teeth are susceptible to the effects of the 4,000 or so chemicals contained in cigarettes, it is encouraging to know two thirds of people who do smoke want to give up.
‘Many people are now aware of the dangers smoking can cause, including tooth staining, dental plaque, bad breath, tooth loss and gum disease, which has been linked to serious medical problems and fatal heart and lung diseases. The habit has also been linked to premature and low birth weight babies.’
Tobacco is the most likely cause of mouth cancer, linked to around three-quarters of all cases of a disease that kills one person every five hours in the UK.
With new cases occurring all the time, many people still remain unaware of the risk smoking poses.
Dr Carter says: ‘The dental profession is in a unique position to warn patients of the risks and consequences of smoking.’
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, has expressed major concerns following the latest study to show a relationship between tooth loss and dementia.
The new study tested more than 4,200 individuals and found that those who had fewer of their own teeth were at increased risk of experiencing memory loss or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
The Japanese participants, who were all 65 or older, were given a full dental examination and a psychological assessment.
Dr Carter said this most recent study adds to the growing evidence that poor oral health and memory decline are related.
Dr Carter said: “This study only goes to strengthen the possible link between tooth loss and memory. Previous studies have suggested there might be a link between a low number of teeth and Alzheimer’s disease and baseline dementia and the case towards a possible link seems to be growing ever stronger.”
“We already know that good oral health has a positive impact on overall health, and likewise, the evidence towards poor oral health and systemic links is mounting.
“Heart disease, strokes, diabetes, lung disease and pre and low weight babies have all been found to be linked with poor oral health. This latest research highlights yet another worrying risk factor of having poor oral health.”
The study also revealed that participants with symptoms of memory loss tended to report that they had rarely visited the dentist, if at all.
Dr Nozomi Okamoto, the study’s principal investigator, said that this may be one explanation for the study’s findings but suggested that there may be other links between tooth loss and memory problems.
Dr Okamoto said: ‘Infections in the gums that can lead to tooth loss may release inflammatory substances, which in turn will enhance the brain inflammation that cause neuronal death and hasten memory loss.
‘The loss of sensory receptors around the teeth is linked to some of the dying neurons.’
Gum disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults but Dr Carter said that many people are still unaware of the relationship.
Dr Carter added: “In people who have gum disease, it is thought that bacteria from the mouth can get into the blood stream. It could then affect the heart by sticking to fatty deposits in the blood vessels of the heart. This can mean clots are more likely to form. Blood clots can reduce normal blood flow, so that the heart does not get all the nutrients and oxygen it needs. If the blood flow is badly affected this could lead to a heart attack.
“Some studies have shown that people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease as those without gum disease.
“It has long been known that diabetics are more likely to suffer from gum disease. This is probably because diabetics are more likely to get infections and generally heal at a slower rate.
“While we can never reverse the effects of existing gum disease as long as you take good care of your oral health you can prevent any further damage.
“To keep your gums healthy make sure you remove plaque every day by brushing for two minutes night and morning and cleaning in between teeth with interdental sticks or floss, and go for regular check-ups with the dentist and hygienist, as often as they recommend.”
A new study suggests that women may be over 11 times more likely to suffer from breast cancer if they have missing teeth and gum disease.
The study (1), carried out by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden on over three thousand patients, showed that out of the 41 people who developed breast cancer those who had gum disease and loss of teeth were 11 times more likely to develop cancer.
As this appears to be the first study presenting such findings, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, believes more needs to be done in order to confirm the results.
Dr Carter said: “If future studies can also testify to the link between missing teeth and breast cancer, more has to be done to raise public awareness on the issue. The British Dental Health Foundation has a history of campaigning for better oral health, and the findings presented in the study indicate another clear link between your general and oral health.”
Gum disease is caused by the bacteria in dental plaque. As the disease gets worse the bone anchoring the teeth in the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose. If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually fall out. In fact, more teeth are lost through periodontal disease than through tooth decay.
In the past several findings have been released to support the notion infections in the mouth can affect other areas of your general health. In people who have gum disease, it is thought that bacteria from the mouth can get into the blood stream and affect the heart, causing a higher risk of heart disease. The same principles affect those with diabetes, as people with the condition are more likely to pick up infections. People with gum disease are also thought to be at a higher risk of strokes, chest infections, and pregnant women are seven times more likely to have a premature baby with a low birth weight.
As gum disease develops painlessly, there aren’t many ways in which you can detect problems evolving. Look out for inflamed gums causing them to be red, swollen and bleed easily, an unpleasant taste in your mouth, bad breath, loose teeth and regular mouth infections. With only a few of these symptoms visible, Dr Carter recommends a safe course of action if you start showing any signs of gum disease.
Dr Carter said: “The best way to prevent and treat gum disease is to ensure you remove all the plaque from between your teeth by brushing for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. You also need to clean in between your teeth at least once a day with interdental brushes or dental floss as this is the area where gum disease starts. Regular visits to the dentist can also help to identify early signs of gum disease.”