It seems that people with sore or bleeding gums have an increased chance of developing liver cancer.

At least that’s what’s recently been revealed.

Previous studies have certainly linked other conditions to poor oral health: heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s and other cancers. Digestive system cancers are a global issue and it’s challenging for science to identify and possibly separate the role tobacco and alcohol each play in that.

Nutrition deficits, an ageing populations and an increase in environmental and behavioural risks are other factors cited among the probable influences.

Data was drawn from almost 470,000 English, Scottish and Welsh citizens in the UK who signed up for the Biobank project between 2006 and 2010, when they were between 40 and 69 years of age.

Approximately 1% of participants developed some variety of gastrointestinal cancer over the preceding 6 years, affecting either bile ducts, pancreas, oesophagus, stomach, liver, small intestine, colon, rectum or anus.

Of these digestive cancers, 13% had had poor oral health from the beginning of the study.

Most commonly, they were women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who smoked, suffered from obesity, ate fewer than two portions of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, and aged in their 40s.

Having painful or bleeding gums and the presence of loose teeth defined poor oral health for this study.

Recently, gingivitis was suggested as a new risk factor for systemic inflammation. As the early stage of periodontal disease, it’s an affliction familiar to just about 50% of the global adult population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 45% of Americans above the age of 30 have some form of gum disease.

It is the untreated inflammation of the mouth that has the proteins responsible, spread throughout the body and initiate damage other organs. The bacterium that creates periodontitis also has toxic by-products: all of it moves from the surface of the teeth and gums into the bloodstream.

The liver eliminates pollutants and pathogens from the body. When its function declines due to damage or disease, bacteria survives for longer, and causes even more harm.

In the link with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the existence of Fusobacterium nucleatum, bacterium known to originate in the mouth. What’s unclear, is how big a part it has in the manifestation of liver cancer – warranting further investigation into oral microbiome.

It may simply be that it’s the physical discomfort of inflamed gums or mouth ulcers, and having loose or missing teeth, that means people with oral conditions are unable to maintain proper nutrition, and that elevates their risk of liver cancer.

Overindulgence in sugar-sweetened beverages can be very enticing to those with less than optimal health, and low energy levels.

That in itself is a high contributor to liver disease.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has published new research as part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), evaluating the association between chronic liver disease mortality and the intake of sugar-sweetened, or artificially sweetened beverages.

Nearly 100,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 were enrolled in the study across 40 US clinical centres, over a five year period from 1993.

They were followed up in 2020 – which for some participants spans almost three decades.

Women who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened drinks on a daily basis were reported to have increased instances of liver cancer, or were found to have died from chronic liver disease.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Longgang Zhao, and Associate Professor Dr Xuehong Zhang, ascertained the results as unsurprising. Ultra-processed drinks are a nominated factor for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It may be that insulin resistance and inflammation strongly impinge on liver health.

At the same time the World Health Organisation (WHO) has released new guidelines against the use of non-sugar sweeteners to reduce and control body weight. From a systematic review of evidence, acesulfame K, aspartame, advantame, cyclamates, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, stevia, stevia derivatives and all synthetic sweeteners – whether already contained in manufactured consumables, or added as a replacement for sugar – were found to make no contribution, and offer no benefit in the lessening of body fat in adults or children.

What they do contribute, is amplifying the potential for type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, liver disorders and adult mortality.

They carry no nutritional value, and other methods of minimising, or completely removing free sugars from the diet are much more useful in balancing and maintaining body bulk and achieving long-term health improvements.

Queen’s University Belfast has also completed a study that maintains that oral health issues increase the possibility of contracting hepatocellular carcinoma – the most common form of liver cancer – by 75%.

We know that brushing is good for your teeth and gums.

What we also know is that good dental hygiene lowers blood glucose levels in type-2 diabetes sufferers.

What we’re beginning to understand is how healthy oral habits, including keeping those twice-yearly appointments with your dentist, is not only a huge preventative for gum disease, but for liver disease as well.

Who’d have thought it?

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