April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. With impeccable timing, a recent study presented at the American Association of Cancer Research on March 31 shows a possible link between proper oral hygiene and decreased risk of oral cancer.
According to an article in Live Science, the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed the dental behaviors of patients who were diagnosed with oral cancer between 2011 and 2014 versus the dental behaviors of non-cancer patients.
The researchers found a link between the frequency of dental visits and the development of oral cancer. Patients who visited the dentist less than once a year nearly doubled their risk of developing oral cancer later in life compared to those who did see the dentist. The same goes for flossing—the study found twice the risk of developing oral cancer in those who flossed less than once a day compared to regular flossers.
The researchers cited changes in oral microbiome (the combination of microorganisms and genetic material found in the mouth) as a possible cause for the link between poor oral hygiene and increased risk of oral cancer. If the mouth is in poor health, the microbiome “shift” can lead to chronic inflammation, which can promote the development of mutated cells.
It’s important to note that while this research shows association, it does not yet establish causation. But it does—as part of a growing body of scientific work on the subject—underline the importance of proper oral hygiene for overall wellness.