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Gum Disease Linked to Neck & Head Squamous Cell Cancer

Posted Sep 08 2009 10:13pm
I'm big on flossing and gum health and usually get good check-ups, except for a little scolding about not wearing my mouth guard at night (okay, I confess, I can grind my teeth if I've been drinking any kind of caffeine).

However, many seniors could afford to take better care of their gums. Bad breath is one sign of gum disease. Inflamed red gums are another (if your gums bleed during routine dental cleanings, you need to take more care of your gums). Periodontitis is the second most common disease in the world, leading to bone loss and ultimately teeth that get loose if untreated long-term.

Those of you with less-than-stellar dental hygiene know who you are--and may have resigned yourself to scoldings from your own dentist when you get your teeth cleaned--but now there's more at stake than just friendly breath and pretty gums.

Here's another good reason to take better care of your teeth and gums: preventing periodontitis can also help your prevent squamous cell carcinoma to your head and neck (yep, the body is all inter-related after all, so taking care in one place helps all sorts of other places stay healthy).

After having a basal cell skin cancer on my nose, I learned about the difference between basal, squamous, and melanoma cancers, with the former being slow-growing, not-so-mobile and the latter being the lethal kind that can move from the tip of one's nose from overexposure to the sun and end up migrating to the lungs, liver, pancreas, literally anywhere in the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma can also occur in multiple places on the body, usually those most exposed to sunlight, and while it doesn't have the same mobility or lethality of melanoma, it is one of the bad guys that can cause horrible disfiguration if unattended and surgery is required.

Word to the wise: take care of your teeth and gums and you'll be taking good care of your face and neck.
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