How oral bacteria (F. nucleatum) fuels cancer growth

How oral bacteria (F. nucleatum) fuels cancer growth

How oral bacteria (F. nucleatum) fuels cancer growth

For the longest time, cancer research has focused on on genetic mutations and environmental factors in its search for preventative treatments and cures. But recently, scientists have uncovered a surprising culprit which may increase cancer growth and help it spread: bacteria. One bacterium in particular, Fusobacterium nucleatum (F. nucleatum), which originates in the oral cavity, has been linked to increased risk of cancers in the mouth and far beyond.

What is F. nucleatum?

F. nucleatum is a cigar-shaped bacteria which is a common resident of the mouth, throat and intestine. While typically harmless, this anaerobic bacteria has been found in higher levels in tumours of the colon, breast, head and neck. This finding has researchers wondering: is F. nucleatum just a bystander in cancer, or does it actively contribute to the disease?

Cancers linked to F. nucleatum

Colorectal cancer: Research has consistently shown a strong association between F. nucleatum and colorectal cancer. In fact, a recent study even identified a specific subtype of F. nucleatum known as Animalis, which is particularly linked to more aggressive forms of colorectal tumours.

Oral cancer: F. nucleatum is commonly found in large quantities within biofilms that coat oral squamous cell carcinomas, indicating a potential involvement in the development of oral cancer.

Breast cancer: The acceleration of tumour growth and the spread of cancer cells (metastasis) in breast cancer cases has also been shown to have a connection with an abundance of F. nucleatum.

How oral bacteria (F. nucleatum) fuels cancer growth

How does F. nucleatum promote cancer?

Researchers are still piecing together the exact mechanisms, but several theories suggest how F. nucleatum can contribute to cancer development:

Boosting cell growth: F. nucleatum has the ability to interact with our cells in a way that accelerates their growth and prevents them from undergoing natural cell death processes. This abnormal stimulation of cell growth can contribute to the formation of tumours.

Breast cancer: The acceleration of tumour growth and the spread of cancer cells (metastasis) in breast cancer cases has also been shown to have a connection with an abundance of F. nucleatum.

Causing inflammation: When F. nucleatum is present, it triggers our body to release substances that lead to inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a known factor in cancer development, as it creates an environment that supports the growth and spread of cancerous cells.

Dodging the immune system: The bacterium has the clever ability to deceive our immune system, impairing its effectiveness in recognising and eliminating cancer cells. By evading the immune response, Fusobacterium nucleatum provides an advantage to cancer cells, allowing them to thrive and proliferate.

Assisting in tumour spread: F. nucleatum plays a role in facilitating the spread of cancer cells by aiding in their invasion of nearby tissues. It achieves this by breaking down barriers between cells and promoting the movement of cancer cells to other parts of the body. This capability enhances the aggressiveness and metastatic potential of cancer.

These are just some of the ways F. nucleatum might be working behind the scenes in cancer development. Research is still ongoing, but the link between this bacterium and cancer is becoming increasingly clear.

How oral bacteria (F. nucleatum) fuels cancer growth

Is everyone with F. nucleatum at risk of cancer?

Having F. nucleatum doesn’t guarantee you’ll get cancer. Many factors contribute to cancer development, and F. nucleatum might be one piece of the puzzle. Additionally, the exact mechanisms at play are still being explored in ongoing research.

Right now, F. nucleatum isn’t used for routine cancer screening. However, understanding this connection might lead to new diagnostic tools to identify cancers harbouring this bacterium. Additionally, researchers are exploring the possibility of targeting F. nucleatum with antibiotics or developing vaccines to prevent its colonisation in tumours.

What can you do?

While there’s no single action to eliminate cancer risk from F. nucleatum, here are some general steps that can promote good health:

Oral hygiene routine: Maintaining excellent oral hygiene practices like diligent brushing and flossing can help reduce the overall burden of bad bacteria in the mouth.

Regular dental care: Visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings to prevent gum disease, a breeding ground for F. nucleatum. Early detection and treatment can make a big difference.

Oral pathogen tests: A few dental clinics now offer advanced oral pathogen screanning and tests to identify specific bacteria in your mouth. These tests can provide more targeted information about your oral health and may help your dentist develop a more personalised treatment plan.

Prioritise preventive care: Regular checkups with your doctor allow for early detection of various cancers, leading to better treatment outcomes.

Embrace a healthy lifestyle: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, combined with regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, can significantly reduce your overall cancer risk.

Consider probiotics: Probiotics may help create a more balanced gut microbiome, potentially reducing the growth of harmful bacteria like F. nucleatum.

Healthy habits

Healthy habits, healthy you

In light of ongoing research on the connection between F. nucleatum and cancer, the significance of a holistic approach to overall health is clearer than ever. Prioritising good oral hygiene, regular check-ups, a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle helps us build a strong foundation to fight off potential health problems. After all, a healthy body is naturally better at defending itself against health challenges. So, make great oral care habits part of your lifestyle—it’ll help you become a stronger, more resilient version of yourself!

Consider talking to your dentist or doctor about your specific risk factors and how to maintain optimal health.

Simple ways to help mothers improve oral health and avoid chronic diseases

Simple ways to help mothers improve oral health and avoid chronic diseases

Mothers are often the cornerstone of their families, providing care, support and love. However, due to age and pressures of life, many mothers are at risk of chronic diseases. These conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, can significantly impact their health, happiness and ability to fulfil their multitude of roles. Fortunately, many can be prevented or managed through healthy lifestyle choices, regular medical check-ups and early intervention.

Maintaining good oral health is essential for overall health, as poor oral hygiene can be a contributing factor in the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and respiratory infections. In this blog, we will explore the role of oral health in overall health, and provide simple tips to help mothers improve their oral health to reduce their likelihood of suffering from chronic diseases.

Common chronic diseases and oral health

Oral health as a contributing factor to the development of chronic diseases is an ongoing area of study which we keenly follow. Our steadfast goal in educating our patients about this serious matter is ensuring their life-long health and quality of life. When our patients get into their motherhood years, they may be at greater risk of some of these common chronic diseases which can have a relationship with oral health.

  • Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot regulate blood sugar levels, leading to health problems. The immune response associated with gum disease can consume so much of the body’s endocrine supply that there is not enough remaining for insulin production, which is used in blood sugar regulation.
  • Heart disease is a group of conditions that affect the heart, including coronary artery disease, heart attack and heart failure. The link between oral health and heart disease is multifactorial, with a one factor being that oral pathogens can enter the bloodstream through gum infection. Once in the blood, bacteria and viruses travel throughout the cardiovascular system and may trigger the release of large white blood cells. These large white blood cells can become lodged in small blood vessels, especially in the heart. Other components of blood, including cholesterol, then join the traffic jam which forms atherosclerotic plaque. This blocks the supply of oxygen and nutrients and, in the case of the heart, can lead to heart disease.
  • Cancer is a disease where abnormal cells grow uncontrollably, often leading to tumours and other health problems. Dental infections can contribute to this condition by releasing bacterial toxins which can damage DNA and through triggering an immune response that causes systemic inflammation. Both of these can promote the growth of cancer cells.
  • Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can significantly impact a mother’s quality of life. These may be partially attributed to brain inflammation, chronic pain, lack of sleep and degraded self-confidence resulting from poor oral health. Since the brain inflammation factor is rarely considered, it is worth explaining. Inflammation of the brain can be caused by the inflammatory response that chronic gum disease can trigger throughout the body. Long-term brain inflammation can negatively impact mental health.

Good oral health is a critical aspect of overall health, as it can reduce your risk of chronic diseases. Neglecting oral health can strain our immune systems, adversely affecting our overall health. Mothers often put the needs of others before themselves, which increases their risk of developing poor oral health that can lead to feelings of fatigue, illness and an increased risk of chronic diseases. Therefore, we need to recognise the need for mothers to prioritise oral health to ensure their overall health, happiness and well-being.

Common chronic dental diseases

Keeping in mind the impact of poor oral health on chronic disease, we need to also consider common chronic oral health problems. These can be mitigated by good oral hygiene and lifestyle choices, which in turn may reduce the incidence of other chronic diseases.

  • Tooth decay is a condition where the outer layer of the tooth, called enamel, is damaged by acid produced by bacteria in the mouth. This can cause pain, sensitivity and infection if left untreated. It can also become a factor contributing to chronic diseases.
  • Gum disease is a condition where bacteria builds up in the gums, leading to inflammation, swelling and bleeding. Gum disease can lead to tooth loss and other serious health problems if left untreated.
  • Oral cancer is a type of cancer that can occur in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. If left untreated, oral cancer can lead to serious health problems, including difficulty speaking, swallowing or breathing.

Risk factors for chronic dental diseases

  • Poor dental hygiene can include inadequate brushing, flossing and dental check-ups. This can lead to a buildup of plaque and bacteria in the mouth, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Unhealthy diets are typically high in sugar and processed foods. These can contribute to tooth decay, as the sugar fuels bacteria in the mouth to produce acid that erodes tooth enamel.
  • Vaping or smoking can delay healing after dental procedures and increase the risk of gum disease and oral cancer.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption can dry out the mouth, reducing saliva flow and increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Certain medical conditions, as well as certain health conditions such as diabetes, can affect dental health by reducing the body’s ability to fight infection and heal properly.

How can mothers prevent chronic diseases?

Preventing chronic diseases, especially when you are a mother, requires a multi-faceted approach. It includes healthy lifestyle habits, regular health screenings and check-ups, stress management and mental health support. Here are some methods that can help prevent chronic diseases:

Healthy lifestyle habits

A balanced diet, regular exercise and avoiding unhealthy habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are crucial for preventing chronic diseases. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats can help maintain a healthy weight, regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Regular health screenings and check-ups

Regular health screenings and check-ups can help detect and manage chronic diseases early. Women should schedule regular appointments with their healthcare provider, which may include oral exams, blood pressure checks, blood glucose tests, cholesterol tests and mammograms.

Regular dental check-ups can help identify and treat early signs of dental issues, such as gum disease and tooth decay, before they become chronic. Your dentist can also advise on maintaining good dental hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing. Your dentist may recommend preventive measures, such as fluoride treatments, dental sealants or night guards if necessary.

Stress management and mental health support

Chronic stress can contribute to developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, depression and anxiety. Stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing can help reduce stress levels. Seeking support from friends, family or a mental health professional can also be beneficial for managing stress and maintaining mental health.

Healthy mouths and happy mothers

At Leeming Dental, we want to empower mothers in their journey towards optimal health. When mothers improve their health and reduce their risk of chronic diseases, they may find it easier to fulfil their multiple roles with vitality and happiness. This is hard to do alone, so it is essential that they and those around them prioritise the simple steps needed to improve oral health. Remember, maintaining good oral hygiene, making healthy lifestyle choices and seeking regular medical and dental check-ups are key to maintaining great health and preventing chronic diseases.

Asthma and oral health

Asthma and oral health

The link between asthma and your oral health

Do you have asthma or know someone who does? If so, then it’s important that you are aware of the connection between asthma and oral health. Recent studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between poor oral hygiene and an increased risk of asthma attacks. Poor dental care can lead to inflammation in the airways which can trigger an attack. On top of this, research has found that people with severe forms of asthma tend to suffer from more cavities than those without asthma.

Poor oral hygiene heightens asthma attacks

Poor oral hygiene can lead to inflammation in the airways which can trigger an attack. When bacteria and plaque start to accumulate on the teeth, gums and tongue they can release toxins into the bloodstream that can cause inflammation of the airways. This inflammation makes it more difficult for people with asthma to breathe.

Asthma increases the risk of dry mouth

A dry mouth is a condition in which your body does not produce enough saliva. Asthma can cause an individual to take shallow breaths which results in a decreased production of saliva. Saliva helps to fight against dental plaque, bacteria and acidity levels in the mouth. Without enough saliva, the mouth is more exposed to oral health issues such as cavities and gum disease.

In addition to this, people with asthma may be more likely to have an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth. This can cause a higher risk of bad breath, cavities, gum disease and other oral health issues.

Effects of asthma medications on your oral health

  • Gingivitis: Asthma medications can often cause gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gum tissue surrounding your teeth. This condition may make your gums more prone to infection and bleeding after brushing or flossing.
  • Cavities: Certain asthma medications can increase the risk of cavities due to decreased saliva production.
  • Mouth sores: Some people who take asthma medication may experience mouth sores. These can range in size and severity, but they are usually painful and can make it difficult to eat or drink.
  • Tooth decay: Long-term use of certain asthma medications can cause tooth decay, as they may reduce the number of minerals in your teeth.
  • Dental erosion: Asthma medications can contribute to changes in your teeth and bone structure. For example, long-term use of steroids may cause changes in the shape of your jawbone or make your teeth more prone to erosion.

Asthma and Dental Anxiety

Don’t let your fear of an Asthma attack stop you from seeing the dentist, or at worst, never at all. If you feel nervous or have dental anxiety, don’t worry. Be open and honest with the dentist to create a treatment plan that addresses your concerns for a comfortable and stress-free appointment. Modern dental clinics have a variety of options for patients to assist with dental anxiety these days.

Protect your oral health

The best way to protect your oral health is to practice good oral hygiene habits. Brush twice a day, floss daily and visit your dentist every 6 months. This will help reduce the risk of developing cavities, gum disease and other oral health issues.

In addition, talking to your doctor about your asthma and its effects on your oral health is an important step in making sure that you are properly managing both conditions. Your doctor may be able to provide advice or prescribe medications to help reduce the risk of developing oral health issues related to asthma. By understanding the connection between asthma and oral health, you can take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from potential complications.

How does the oral mucosa protect you from viruses and bacteria?

How does the oral mucosa protect you from viruses and bacteria?

What is the mucous membrane?

The mucous membrane is a moist mucosal layer that lines cavities within the body. In fact, the mucous membrane extends throughout the body and protects all internal surfaces that are exposed to air, microbes and foreign matter (i.e. dust, food & beverages). These areas include the respiratory, digestive and reproductive tracts.

This viscous lining is kept permanently moist by goblet cells that store and secrete mucins. These mucins form the protective mucous layer known as the mucous membrane.

What is the oral mucosa?

The oral mucosa, also called the oral mucous membrane, is the mucous membrane that lines the oral cavity specifically. This includes the mouth, tongue, inner cheeks, nasal passages and pharynx.

The essential ‘barrier’ immunity function of the oral mucosa

The oral mucosa has a number of protective functions. For example, it protects soft tissues from the mechanical forces of contraction, expansion and shearing when you talk, chew and swallow. It also contains receptors with sensory functions (e.g. the tongue mucosa contains taste buds).

However, the most essential protective function of the oral mucosa is that it acts as your body’s first line of immune defence against oral pathogens and viruses.

Your oral mucosal immune system functions as a barrier or ‘wall’ that separates oral bacteria and viruses from underlying soft tissue (or the serous membrane) thereby preventing infection, bacterial pathogenesis and disease.

Keep your oral mucosa moist through adequate hydration

If you’re thirsty and your lips are dry, there’s a good chance your oral mucosa is too. Keep your oral mucosa moist by drinking adequate amounts of water to maintain hydration.

New studies show gum disease may increase severity of COVID-19

New studies show gum disease may increase severity of COVID-19

Everybody on the planet knows about COVID19. Yet with each day, come new discoveries about this mysterious disease. For many, experiencing COVID19 is no more severe than catching a cold. But for others, they experience far worse outcomes such as respiratory failure and death. The risk for contracting a severe form of COVID19 is higher if you have certain medical conditions including cancer, kidney disease, obesity, type 1/2 diabetes, respiratory conditions, high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as being in an advanced age group. Now, recent new studies reveal that one other health condition may also increase your risk of experiencing severe COVID19 – untreated gum disease and poor oral health.

What is the link between untreated gum disease & COVID19?

German researchers have discovered that when COVID19 patients experienced an inflammatory response leading to respiratory failure, their levels of a pro-inflammatory cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6) were elevated. This is the same cytokine implicated in the phrase “cytokine storm” – a term coined to describe the out-of-control immune response occurring in patients with severe COVID19 and other serious auto-immune disorders. People with chronic, untreated gum disease (periodontal disease) experience higher levels of IL-6 as a result of the body’s constant inflammatory response to infected gum tissue. Since elevated levels of IL-6 indicate a strong potential for respiratory complications in COVID19 patients, the authors of the study concluded that treating gum disease and decreasing IL-6 levels may help prevent or reduce severe COVID19 complications.

Earlier British study correlates German findings on IL-6

In June 2020, an English study also found that high IL-6 levels, along with a high oral bacterial load in the mouth, were significant risk factors for severe COVID19 respiratory complications. Their advice: keep good oral hygiene, regular checkups and get gum disease treated!

Treating gum disease to reduce IL-6 levels in the body

The treatment for periodontal disease is quite simple. It is performed by a dentist in a basic dental procedure known as a scale and root planning – a deep dental clean right down to the roots. During this treatment, all oral bacteria are removed above and below the gum line – keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Once gum disease is being properly managed and treated, the body’s inflammatory response winds down along with lower levels of IL-6.

Resources:

Herold, T., Jurinovic, V., Arnreich, C., Lipworth, B. J., Hellmuth, J. C., von Bergwelt-Baildon, M., Klein, M., & Weinberger, T. (2020). Elevated levels of IL-6 and CRP predict the need for mechanical ventilation in COVID-19. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology146(1), 128-136.e4.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2020.05.008 Sampson, V., Kamona, N., & Sampson, A. (2020). Could there be a link between oral hygiene and the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infections? British Dental Journal228(12), 971–975.  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-020-1747-8 Sampson, V. (2020). Oral hygiene risk factor. British Dental Journal228(8), 569.  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-020-1545-3

Gum disease sets off Alzheimer’s biomarkers in cognitively healthy adults

Gum disease sets off Alzheimer’s biomarkers in cognitively healthy adults

In a recent 2021 study from New York University, oral health researchers found that cognitively healthy older adults with harmful oral bacteria experienced a key Alzheimer’s disease biomarker called amyloid beta.

Researchers found that amyloid beta was more likely to be detected in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of subjects with high concentrations of oral pathogens below the gumline. When amyloid beta accumulates, it forms hard, insoluble clumps called amyloid plaques. Amyloid plaques have been argued by researchers to be the main disruptors of communication between brain cells in Alzheimer’s patients.

The U.S. researchers identified oral pathogens including Porphyromonas, Fretibacterium and Prevotella, and pro-biotic bacterial species including Actinomyces, Capnocytophaga and Corynebacterium.

Fortunately, the results of the study showed that subjects with higher levels of pro-biotic bacteria had decreased gum inflammation. This may have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s. The subjects with better gum health were also less likely to have Amyloid beta biomarkers in their CSF.

Despite the need for further studies with a larger sampling of subjects, the researchers were able to ascertain that the balance or imbalance of good & bad oral bacteria had a modulating effect on amyloid levels and the expression of amyloid lesions.

Reference:

Kamer, A., Pushalkar, S., Gulivindala, D., Butler, T., Li, Y., Annam, K., Glodzik, L., Ballman, K., Corby, P., Blennow, K., Zetterberg, H., Saxena, D. and Leon, M., 2021. Periodontal dysbiosis associates with reduced CSF Aβ42 in cognitively normal elderly. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, 13(1). Read the NYU study here: https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/dad2.12172