For years, toothpaste ad campaigns have touted, “Healthy teeth, healthy smile, and healthy life.” But only in recent years have periodontists and urologists began to work together in a study focused on a link between gum disease and prostate disorders.
Previous studies have found a connection between inflammation in the mouth from gum disease and heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Now the Journal of Periodontology has published a study conducted by Case Western Reserve University and University of Hospitals Case Medical Center, both in Cleveland, Ohio, that shows a link between gum and prostate diseases.
The PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, is often used as a marker to determine the degree of inflammation of the epithelial cells of the prostate acini. Normally, the PSA levels of healthy individuals are around 2; however, in the presence of inflammation or cancer of the prostate, the PSA levels may jump to 4 or greater. In the study conducted in Cleveland, thirty-five subjects who underwent prostate biopsy participated in the study. In these subjects, the amount of plaque, bleeding on probing, probing depth, and clinical attachment level (CAL) were also determined. The results showed higher PSA levels for patients with moderate to severe prostate inflammation. Further, those patients with high CAL levels and severe prostatitis had significantly higher mean PSA levels than those with neither gum disease nor prostatitis.
As a result of the study, researchers have theorized that flossing, which reduces gum disease and thus inflammation in the mouth, may also reduce prostate gland inflammation. More clinical studies with a larger patient base need to be conducted to confirm and actually identify the linking factor. And, although flossing is an important step in dental health, dentists still stress the importance of brushing at least twice daily and yearly dental exams. If gum disease and the resultant inflammation truly prove to be another link to prostate cancer, then total mouth health must be sought after.