Dentistry and Cancer
by Richard T. Hansen, D.M.D.
Many have now become aware of the dental impact on whole body health, and much current research has shown the link between dentistry and diabetes, stroke, heart disease, low birth weight babies, etc. In fact, it may very well be that any “disease” state may be shown to have a dental connection, primarily through the digestive, immune, and inflammation pathways. In addition, many heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and electromagnetic stressors may be burdening the body every day from the oral area.
For over 150 years, there has been a faction of researchers showing that there is a microbial connection to cancer. German-style cancer therapy has looked at the mouth first as a significant contributor to cancer. Yet there has been a documented effort by many well-connected individuals and organizations to suppress this line of research in favor of first, radiation, and then, chemotherapy. However, since the links between the viral connections to cancer were discovered and drugs/vaccines developed and marketed, other microbial links are finally again being explored. Since the mouth is the largest opening to the outside environment and exposed to every microbial element, there is a possibility that perhaps research will at some point focus on an oral connection to cancer.
However, there are many other potential links between dentistry and cancer as well as perhaps all disease states. The difficulty for me as a dental researcher is to separate the evidence, either direct or indirect, from the mere speculative.
I have interviewed many dentists and cancer physicians trying to find more factual support for this subject, and what I have found can be grouped into 3 categories:
1.) Evidence that is based almost entirely on oral detection of oral cancers and treatment for these oral occurring cancers.
2.) Biological dental assumptions that all mercury, all root canals, and all extraction sites (cavitations) “cause” cancer and therefore aggressive surgery is recommended for removal of these causes, and they must be treated first. However there are no scientific studies or support for these assumptions to date that I can find.
3.) There is no connection!
I have attempted to research and find direct evidence relating dentistry to cancer, and except for the oral manifestation of cancer, none to my knowledge exists at this moment in time – primarily because it has never been studied directly. However, let’s explore indirect evidence relating dentistry, the mouth, and the oral area to functional systems that do have studied evidence relating to cancer.
There is some scientific evidence that links:
1.) Physical and emotional trauma/stress to cancer
2.) Sympathetic dominance to cancer
3.) Nutritional and digestive links to cancer
4.) Immune dysregulation to cancer
5.) Microbial connections to cancer
6.) Metals, chronic chemical exposure, and detoxification dysregulation to cancer
7.) Chronic inflammation relationship to cancer
8.) Hormonal influence on cancer
Every day each of our bodies makes millions of new cells, repairing damaged ones and replacing those that are diseased beyond repair. If the internal environment of the body to which the cells are exposed is negatively altered, genetic aberration may occur (defective cell copy) and some of these defective cells may be potentially cancerous. So cancer may be a natural process of copy dysfunction that may occur in everyone everyday. Our immune surveillance system should, under ideal operating condition, detect defective cells and get rid of them.
However, our current society is so overwhelmed by chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, electromagnetic, and other burdens, that the terrain/environment surrounding our cells within the body is always under duress. Therefore the likelihood of genetic changes on cellular replication is enhanced. When this occurs the delicate microbial balance within our tissues is altered, and the entire system is further negatively impacted.
Thus our immune and defense systems, including our autonomic nervous system; our first line cellular detox pathway, the lymphatics; and our first line innate immune system, our mucosal barrier system, are severely impacted decreasing their protective surveillance, defense, and repair functions. Since these systems are preoccupied, instead of recognizing and eliminating these daily defective cells, potential cancer cells are allowed to replicate, grow, and spread. This is where dental influences come in. As I described above, there are many functional pathways influenced by dentistry, and the reduction in optimal performance of these functional systems may increase the likelihood of cancer cell production, growth, and spread. It is difficult to find a direct “cause” based link to dentistry.
It is with great satisfaction that I see many health professionals and physicians recognizing that the mouth, as the entry point for immunity and digestion of the body, and the dental condition, should be looked at and does indeed have an impact on functional systems. However, most of the time their conclusions and recommendations are to have a dentist assess and treat the dental situation. This is like identifying dysfunctional pathways of chronic disease states and referring to a standard MD to assess and treat the condition. The result may be the opposite of that intended.
The problem with the dental profession as it exists today is that the entire practice of dentistry is taught primarily as a mechanical craft or trade, rather than as a scientific discipline. Likewise the entire basic profession of medicine is taught as a word association exercise; i.e., description of symptoms leading to a corresponding disease label, which leads to an associative treatment. So dentistry has proceeded along traditional lines of mechanics only – drill, fill, and bill--then the root canal, crown, and extraction with dentures/implants with no thought to the connection to the body or functional systems, yet always leading to more destructive and invasive dentistry, which may further impact health systems.
Then we have had the biologic or holistic dental approach recognizing the hazards of mercury fillings, root canals, and extractions. This approach usually leads to quickly removing the mercury fillings and replacing them with plastic composite fillings, or grinding the teeth down for crowns; extraction of all root canal teeth and grinding away all the surrounding bone; and performing aggressive surgery that removes all suspected bone and tissue in the cavitation site. While both approaches have some valid basis, I am trying to create a more thoughtful functional systems approach to the dental profession that I have called Functional Dentistry. (www.functionaldentistry.org
Recently I had the good fortune to participate in a multidiscipline practice and with the Oasis of Hope Cancer Hospital in Mexico. This year they will be launching Oasis of Hope California and will implement a dental section. Over the last 40 years and about 100,000 patients their success and longevity statistics greatly surpass that in the United States. Their philosophy, which I share, is Tumor vs. Patient. Rather than focus on the tumor and kill and eradicate it at all costs, they focus on the patient – mind, body, mouth - and support of functional systems while assisting the body in fighting the tumor. Their goal is to keep the patient alive for as long as possible, as comfortable as possible, and keep any disease from replicating and spreading – even if the original tumor may still be present. The approach is to optimize emotional well-being and balance for the patient; boost and support the immune and other functional systems; and develop family support and care. It works!!
Top of Page