On most days, you do what you can to brush your teeth both morning and night. But some nights, you fall asleep before you make it to the bathroom to get things done. While this seems like a harmless habit, it might not be if you do it repeatedly.
A new study published in the journal Cancer Research has revealed that not brushing your teeth can increase your risk of throat cancer. The study found a clear link between periodontal disease (gum disease) and oesophageal cancer, or cancer of the tube that runs from your throat to your stomach.
Seriously? Not brushing your teeth can cause throat cancer? Keep reading for the full findings…
Not brushing your teeth regularly can increase your risk of throat cancer
The researchers behind the study took mouth samples from 122,000 people. After 10 years, 106 of these people had developed oesophageal cancer
The researchers found that those who developed oesophageal cancer were more likely to have higher levels of certain types of bacteria in their mouths. The two bacteria, Tannerella forsythia and Porphyromonas gingivalis, that take hold in your gums when you don’t brush your teeth regularly and increase your odds of developing periodontal disease. Tannerella forsythia in particular was linked to a 21% increased risk of developing oesophageal cancer.
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So what causes the cancer – the bacteria or periodontal disease?
It’s important to note that there were a few limitations to this study: For starters, the researchers didn’t have complete information on the study participants’ oral health, so it was difficult for them to determine if the bacteria alone caused the throat cancer or if the participants actually had to have periodontal disease to have an increased risk.
Furthermore, this study looked at the types of bacteria linked to oesophageal cancer, not teeth-brushing habits. So, it’s possible that the people who developed oesophageal cancer also just happened to have a poor oral hygiene.
That being said, previous research has associated periodontal disease with a higher risk of other cancers, too, including oral, head and neck, so it’s clear that keeping your teeth clean is important for your overall health – not just preventing throat cancer.
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