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.

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.

Best cleaning tools to remove plaque in infants & toddlers (3 months-3 years)

Best cleaning tools to remove plaque in infants & toddlers (3 months-3 years)

You might think that removing plaque happens automatically with brushing their teeth. But not all parents clean their child’s teeth and gums in equal measure. Some opt for a quick light brush and miss the hidden plaque behind teeth. Other more scrupulous parents ensure that 100% of tooth and gum surfaces are thoroughly cleaned with the right cleaning tools – and inspected for missed plaque with a dental mirror! Not surprisingly, it’s the latter group that that has the right attitude towards brushing their child’s teeth – it’s all about removing bacterial plaque every time, wherever it may be in the mouth.

Oral cleaning tools for infant teeth and gums 3-12 months old

Starting oral care for your infant can begin well before their first teeth appear. When your child turns 3 months old, you can gently wipe their gum surfaces with a clean, moist pad, finger gauze or cotton-gauze baby oral cleaner swabs – in the mornings and evenings. Gum care, especially along the gum line where primary teeth are emerging, keeps gums clean and healthy. Check other oral surfaces behind the lips, between the inner cheeks and gums. You’d be surprised by what you can find. Infant tongues need cleaning too with a baby tongue cleaner. Give them a quick sip of some water to wash away dislodged plaque and food residue still remaining in the mouth after you’ve completed cleaning. Drinking lots of water during the day keeps their mouths clean too.

When the first teeth pop up, start using a soft, infant toothbrush or silicone finger toothbrush with water to clean them. You can purchase a wide range of age-specific infant teeth & gum cleaning products from your supermarket or chemist. If your child resists a toothbrush at first, make a slower transition and continue using the moist pad or gauze technique to wipe clean 100% of the surfaces of each individual tooth. Don’t miss their gum line and make it fun with song and games. Your child will look forward to brushing their daily oral care and hygiene routine.

Oral cleaning tools for toddlers teeth and gums 1-3 years old

Toddlers need to have their teeth cleaned twice daily – morning and night – just like everyone else. And they will need your help and supervision while they’re doing it. They’ll be using a toothbrush with water until they reach 18 months after which they brush with a small dab of low-fluoride toothpaste. Focus on cleaning each tooth with 360 degree coverage of tooth surfaces. Young toddlers probably won’t spit or rinse when told, so gently wipe away excess toothpaste residue, but leave a thin smear on teeth for its fluoride benefits. By about the age of 2, your toddler should be able to hold the brush while you their hand and guide it in all the right brushing angles and motions.

Stand in front of the bathroom mirror so you can both see into their mouth. You can try cupping their chin for better stability. In effect, you are being a puppeteer and controlling their movements while they get to hold the toothbrush. Angle bristles appropriately to remove plaque from the front, back and between the teeth. To remove plaque build-up from the gum line, angle bristles towards this area and brush in an expanding circular motion to incrementally “shave” off plaque. Make sure you ease the toothbrush off a little when it comes in contact with gum tissue, so as not to cause irritation. Let them hold the tongue cleaner while you guide their hand movements and start teaching them to spit.

New dental technology can benefit toddlers once they’ve got the hang of manual brushing. Infant electric toothbrushes with timers are very effective cleaning tools but a toddler has to unlearn their manual brushing technique to use them. Electric toothbrush are held in a stationary position and moved across each tooth – tooth by tooth. Always store their toothbrush away from other brushes and allow to air dry. Cross bacterial contamination with older family member’s toothbrushes can introduce new bacterial species into your child’s oral cavity. Replace brush or brush heads every 3-4 months.

Buying my child’s first toothbrush – toothbrushes for infants & toddlers

Buying my child’s first toothbrush – toothbrushes for infants & toddlers

You’re a parent and your young toddler has just got their first tiny front teeth. So, it’s time to start cleaning them after ‘feed’ time. But do you use your finger or a damp cloth? Or head off to the supermarket to buy them a toothbrush?

Toothbrushes are the most effective cleaning tool for infants & toddlers

Most dentists recommend toothbrushes as the most effective cleaning tool for your child’s first teeth. Some oral health experts say that using a soft, moist cloth is a better option. So the choice is up to you and may depend on how your child responds to this daily activity. However, keep in mind that bristles are the most effective, quickest way to gently scrub off sticky plaque. You should note brand labelling to select the correct type of toothbrush for your child’s age group. The key point to remember when buying a toothbrush for your young child is that it has to have a small brush head with a soft, rounded end, a small easy-grip handle and soft bristles. You don’t want to irritate your young child’s sensitive gums!

When should you start brushing your infant child’s teeth?

Dentists advise parents to start brushing with water as soon as their first teeth appear. That’s because dental plaque can start forming on tiny tooth surfaces as soon as they erupt out of the gums into the oral cavity. And long term plaque can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Continue to brush your infant’s teeth twice daily until they have enough dexterity to brush, rinse and spit without supervision.

Protect your child’s oral health now for the future

For most children, untreated plaque, tooth decay and cavities are oral conditions that are entirely preventable. However, due to a modern diet with instantly addictive sugary foods, tooth decay and cavities are highly prevalent among children in the 2020s. Inadequate oral care is also an issue. In Australian children aged 3 years and under, 14% didn’t brush, 44% brushed once daily and 42% brushed twice daily (as recommended). That means well over half (58%) of Aussie infants and toddlers are not keeping their teeth clean enough to prevent plaque, decay and cavities. These negative statistics highlight the need for parents to be actively and consistently involved in their child’s oral care and hygiene from the earliest age. This way, good oral habits are formed and maintained throughout their childhood, teen years and into their adult life – for healthy teeth and a healthier life.

The best ways to improve your probiotic oral bacteria

The best ways to improve your probiotic oral bacteria

Probiotic Oral Bacteria

Probiotic Oral Bacteria

The best ways to improve your probiotic oral bacteria

Nurturing and enhancing the probiotic bacterial activity in your oral cavity is done similarly as for your gut

When eating high-fibre vegetables, you can nourish your good oral bacteria along with your friendly gut bacteria, further down the track. However, there are slight differences between the needs of your probiotic oral bacteria compared to those of your gut bacteria. Additionally, your oral cavity is a unique microbial environment that is physiologically different from your gut. Improving its blood vessels & nerves, salivary glands, chemical signalling function to the brain and cellular efficiency can enhance oral probiotic flora and lower levels of oral pathogens.

The oral and gut microbiota work together to keep us healthy

Even though the oral and gut microbiotas appear to be separate entities, they work synergistically to nourish our body and protect it from infection and disease. So it’s important to keep in mind that you can’t effectively improve one microbiota without improving the other as well. For example, you might take a daily gut probiotic supplement – but what about the billions of oral pathogens you swallow every day that makes it through the stomach acid barrier and colonise the gut? So, what are the most beneficial ways to boost your probiotic oral bacteria?

Tips to improve your probiotic oral bacteria

You can nurture your probiotic oral bacteria, optimise your oral PH and improve your oral health with the following foods and oral care/lifestyle habits:

  • Eat, chew or drink (with pulp) nitrate-rich high fibre vegetables to maintain and improve the oral microbiome including celery, beetroot, rocket, chard, rhubarb, fennel and oak leaf lettuce.
  • Eat, chew or drink (with pulp) prebiotic high fibre foods that help feed probiotic oral bacteria, including nuts, fruits and seeds.
  • Chew more fibre to create an “oral garden mulch” to feed probiotic bacteria.
  • Use your toothbrush, flosser and tongue scraper to manually remove bacterial plaque – helps keep bacterial numbers between species balanced and in check.
  • Avoid excessive use of anti-microbial mouthwashes since they can harm the oral microbiome, taking out good and bad bacteria. Use mouthwashes with prebiotics that target specific bacteria.
  • Avoid alcohol. Binge drinking can completely disrupt the diversity of your oral microbiome and enable harmful bacteria to flourish.
  • Avoid smoking. It can disrupt saliva flow and dry out the oral cavity.

  • Oral bacteria