One more reason to brush your teeth; it may lower your risk of getting cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 60% of oropharyngeal cancers (throat, tonsils and the base of the tongue) are related to human papillomavirus (HPV).
And a study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research has reported that poor oral health, including dental problems and gum disease, is an independent risk factor for oral HPV infection and thus, could also be a contributing factor to oral cancers.
A research team from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston looked at the oral health and HPV-infection status of more than 3,400 participants between the ages 30 to 69 who were part of the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
The researchers discovered that people who reported having poor oral health had a 56% higher rate of HPV infection than those whose mouths were healthy, and people who had gum disease and dental problems had a 51% higher risk of being infected with HPV than those who did not have these issues.
Every year in the U.S., more than 2,370 new cases of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers are diagnosed in women and about 9,356 are diagnosed in men. HPV-related oral cancers have been on the rise recently in the United States while tumors related to tobacco have been on the decline.
“In the U.S., there is an active shift going on. Fortunately thanks to tobacco policy and public-health awareness, the incidence rate for the classical head and neck cancer caused by smoking is declining. But unfortunately, the rate of oropharynx cancer is still going up and it’s because of the HPV component,” Dr. Maura Gillison, a professor at Ohio State University who studies HPV infections in the head, throat and neck told TIME magazine.