Research Links Head and Neck Cancer with Poor Oral Hygiene

Dental professionals have long believed that head and neck cancer (HNC) may be associated with lack of oral hygiene, and now that theory has been proven correct.

Head and Neck Cancer Hygiene

A recent, wide-reaching study has demonstrated that poor oral health care habits are a contributing factor for these devastating forms of cancer.

How the Cancer Study Was Conducted

A group of researchers from the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology (INHANCE) Consortium pooled data from 13 studies, comparing 8,925 diagnosed patients with 12,527 control patients without cancer.

The oral health of each patient was thoroughly assessed. Researchers checked for good dental care habits, including regular checkups and daily tooth brushing. They also evaluated patients for effective oral hygiene indicators.

Researchers then analyzed the patient data to estimate the effect that each of these habits and indicators had on the risk of developing HNC. Alcohol consumption and smoking also were considered in the results; however, patients’ diets were not.

Findings of the INHANCE Cancer Study

According to the INHANCE Consortium study, poor oral hygiene is associated with an increased risk for developing cancer.

Patients who visit their dentist or oral surgeon annually, those who brush every day and those with fewer than five missing teeth have lower odds of developing HNC. Wearing dentures was not found to be linked to increased cancer risk.

The study results showed relatively consistent associations between HNC and oral hygiene. However, researchers noted that for some patients, smoking — and not poor health care habits — could be the cause of their disease.

Are You at Risk for Head and Neck Cancer?

Poor oral hygiene is just one factor that could increase your risk for these types of cancer. Other lifestyle choices also may play a part.

Alcohol and tobacco use are two of the biggest risk factors — in fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, 85 percent of people who develop HNC have a history of tobacco use. Poor nutrition and vitamin deficiencies also may contribute to some cancer cases.

Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) or the Epstein-Barr virus also can lead to some types of oral cancer. Exposure to radiation, particularly in the neck or head region, or to certain materials such as industrial synthetic fibers or asbestos, also can cause HNC.

If you have a concern regarding your oral cancer risk, contact Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah to schedule a comprehensive oral health evaluation and assessment. Serving the greater Salt Lake City, Utah, area, our experienced oral surgeons can help you understand the potential contributors to and effects of head and neck cancer.