Pearly whites linked with lower risk of H-P-V

By Shayna Brouker • Published: December 12th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Brush your teeth to keep them pearly white and prevent cavities, gingivitis and … H-P-V? That’s right — the latest research shows that poor oral health is linked with the cancer-causing human papillomavirus.

It’s the latest research to show just how closely dental health is linked with overall wellness. The study of more than thirty-four hundred adults, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, found that those who rated their oral health as “poor” to “fair” were more likely to have an oral infection with HPV. In some cases, the virus can lead to cancer. Ten percent of those with oral disease tested positive for oral HPV, while just 6.5 percent of those who believed they had “good” or “excellent” dental health had oral H-P-V.

The results don’t prove causation, but even when the researchers ruled out factors like smoking and having multiple sex partners, poor oral health still accounted for a fifty-six percent increase in risk of H-P-V. It’s unclear why there’s a link between the two, but it could be that an unhealthy mouth can serve as an entryway for the virus. The bottom line is that a prolonged case of H-P-V can lead to oral cancer, which affects the tonsils, tongue and back of the throat. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 12,000 Americans are affected by oral cancer every year. Doctors think H-P-V causes nearly three-quarters of these cases.

Keeping your mouth clean can keep your heart healthy, too. Some studies have found a link between gum disease and a risk of heart disease. And people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis are eight times more likely to have gum disease, too — both center around inflammation. Gum disease in moms-to-be is even associated with premature birth.

Do pay attention to your teeth — they’re more important than you think.