Could poor dental hygiene lead to cancer?

A study published in the journal of Cancer Prevention Research, reports that poor oral health – including dental problems and gum disease – is a risk factor for oral HPV (human papillomavirus), and could therefore contribute to oral cancers.

Researchers from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston studied almost 3,500 participants ages 30 to 69. Participants provided data on oral health and HPV. Those who reported poor oral health had a 56 percent higher rate of HPV than those with healthy mouths. Those with gum disease and dental issues had a 51 percent greater risk of contracting HPV.

The Centers for Disease Control also reports that about 60 percent of cancers of the throat, tonsils and base of the tongue are related to HPV. Each year nearly 12,000 new cases of HPV related cases of cancer are diagnosed – and that number is increasing.

If left untreated, HPV can cause cancers in the cervix, anus, penis, vulva, vagina, head and neck. Some forms of the virus also lead to genital warts, but new studies suggest that HPV vaccines can lower infection rates and are strong weapons in fighting cancer.

There is currently no scientifically proven way for testing for oral HPV, which makes monitoring for the cancers more challenging – and preventing them more critical.

A healthy mouth, it seems, is the sign of a healthy body. Make sure to brush and floss daily, and schedule regular dental appointments.

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