Now we all know that the three core dental hygiene habits of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash can help keep your teeth white and cavity free. But could these habits also help decrease your risk of cancer? According to a recent study the answer is YES! Good dental hygiene helps to prevent many oral health issues, one of the main ones being gum disease, and it’s gum disease specifically that can increase your chances of head and neck cancer.
Researchers found that people diagnosed with head and neck cancers were much more likely to have chronic periodontitis than people without cancer. Periodontitis is advanced gum disease that leads to progressive loss of bone and soft tissue that surround the teeth. Actually, for every millimeter of bone loss due to chronic periodontitis, there is more than a four times greater risk of head and neck cancer, after taking into account other known risk factors such as smoking.
The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, compared rates of periodontitis in 226 people with head and neck cancer and a comparison group of 207 people without cancer. The results showed that each millimeter of bone loss due to chronic periodontitis was associated with a greater than fourfold higher risk of head and neck cancer. The link between gum disease and cancer was strongest among people with cancers of the mouth, followed by cancers of the oropharynx (back of the mouth and throat) and larynx (voice box).
How to Prevent Gum Disease
So the question then becomes, how do you go about preventing gum disease? Like most dental health issues, it all comes back to brushing, flossing, and rinsing consistently and properly. I know by now hearing one more reminder about flossing probably just goes in one ear and out of the other, but it really is important. So important that your overall health is directly effected by it! So if you aren’t currently doing these habits, then today is your day to get your oral health, and overall health back on track!