Brushing your teeth and flossing regularly are important for cosmetic reasons and to make sure that you have fresh breath, but having a strong oral hygiene routine could also reduce your risk of developing oropharyngeal cancers — cancers of the mouth, throat, tonsils, and tongue.
The Centers for Disease Control has reported that about 60% of these cancers are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), which is perhaps better known for causing reproductive cancers in both women and men. They’ve determined that poor oral health like gum disease and dental problems are correlated with increased risk of HPV infection, which could also contribute to an increased risk of cancer.
A study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research corroborates the CDC, noting that those with poor oral health, gum diseases, and dental problems had a significantly higher rate of HPV infection than those with good oral health. With public health campaigns against tobacco achieving some great success in reducing head and neck cancers caused by tobacco use, HPV-related cancers of the same areas of the body appear to be on the rise.
The good news? There is an HPV vaccine available which has proven successful in lowering infection rates, making it a valuable tool in reducing the risk of all HPV-related cancers. But even without the vaccine, brushing and flossing, regular dental checkups, and generally keeping the mouth environment clean can go a long way in reducing risk of oral HPV infection and oropharyngeal cancers.