Skip to content

    Oral Care

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Poor Oral Hygiene Tied to Cancer-Linked Virus

    Avoiding HPV is yet another reason to take care of your teeth, gums, experts say

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Amy Norton

    HealthDay Reporter

    WEDNESDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- People whose teeth and gums are in poor condition may be more susceptible to an oral virus that can cause certain mouth and throat cancers, a new study suggests.

    Researchers found that of more than 3,400 U.S. adults, those who rated their oral health as "poor" to "fair" were more likely to have an oral infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which, in certain cases, can eventually lead to cancer.

    Overall, 10 percent of people with tooth or gum disease tested positive for oral HPV. That compared with 6.5 percent of those who rated their dental health as "good" to "excellent."

    The results, reported Aug. 21 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, do not actually prove that diseased teeth and gums cause HPV infection.

    "We don't know if poor oral health led to the HPV infection," said Christine Markham, one of the researchers on the study.

    Her team tried to account for other factors that could affect dental health or the odds of having HPV -- such as smoking or multiple oral sex partners. And poor oral health was still linked to a 56 percent increase in the risk of having oral HPV.

    But there could be other explanations for the connection, and more research is needed, said Markham, an associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

    Still, she said, there are already plenty of reasons to take care of your teeth and gums. "Good oral health care is important for your health in general," Markham said. This study just offers some more incentive, she added.

    HPV, which can cause genital and anal warts, is the most commonly transmitted sexual infection in the United States. Usually, the immune system clears the infection, but in some cases the virus persists in the body. And persistent infection with certain HPV strains can eventually lead to cancer -- with cervical cancer the best known.

    HPV can also invade the mouth during oral sex. Those infections usually cause no symptoms, but a lingering infection with a cancer-linked strain can lead to oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the back of the throat, base of the tongue and tonsils.

    1 | 2 | 3

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

    Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


    or
    Answer:
    Never
    (0)
    Good
    (1-3)
    Better
    (4-6)
    Best
    (7)

    You are currently

    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

    Start Over

    Step:  of 

    Today on WebMD

    close up of woman sticking out tongue
    Sores, discoloration, bumps and more.
    toothbrushes
    10 secrets to a brighter smile.
     
    Veneer smile
    Before and after.
    Woman checking her bite in mirror
    Why dental care is important.
     

    Woman dissatisfied with granola bar
    Slideshow
    woman with jaw pain
    Quiz
     
    eroded front teeth
    Slideshow
    brushing teeth
    Video
     

    Variety shades of tea
    Slideshow
    mouth and dental instruments
    Article
     
    Closeup of a happy young guy brushing his teeth
    Tool
    womans smile
    Video