While breast cancer rates are lower in Hispanic women than other races, Hispanic women are 20% more likely to die of breast cancer than non-Hispanic women.
“Oral health is essential to general health and physical wellbeing at every stage of life,” says Dr. Leslie Renee Townsend, DDS, Regional Dental Director for Jefferson Dental Clinics. “Women with periodontal disease who were former smokers had a 36% higher risk of breast cancer, women who were smoking at the time of the study had a 32% higher risk of breast cancer, and non-smokers with gum disease were still at a 14% elevated risk. ”
An estimated half of all adults has some level of periodontal disease. The CDC estimates that more than 60% of the Hispanic population has periodontal disease, the highest rate of prevalence of all ethnic groups.
Poor oral health and smoking are two main causes of periodontal disease. Pockets in the gums form around the teeth, providing a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause teeth to loosen and even fall out.
“Inflammation caused by gum disease also puts patients at risk of developing heart disease, stroke and other conditions,” says Dr. Townsend.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers amongst all women, claiming about 40,000 lives each year. While good periodontal health won’t eliminate cancer, gum disease is preventable and treatable with good oral hygiene.
“Twice daily brushing and flossing are the best ways to keep the teeth and gums healthy,” says Dr. Townsend. “Your dentist can be an ally to help monitor the signs of gum disease.”