An oral virus that can cause mouth and throat cancer may have a greater chance of developing in people who don't maintain healthy dental care.
Focusing on data from a large federal health survey, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston found that more than 3,400 U.S. adults who had poor to fair dental health were more likely to have an oral infection caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which may lead to cancer, reported Medline Plus.
The study, which was published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, found that 10 percent of people with tooth decay or gum disease tested positive for oral HPV, compared to 6.5 percent of those surveyed who rated their oral health as good to excellent.
HPV is the most commonly transmitted sexual infection in the U.S. Although the immune system is often able to clear the infection, the virus can persist in the body and eventually cause cancer, most notably cervical cancer.
One of the researchers, Christine Markham, Ph.D., an associate professor of health promotion and behavioral sciences at UT, said it's possible that diseased gums may be an entry portal for the virus to enter the body.
Importance of dental care
The Texas study is the latest to point out the health risks of not maintaining good dental care with regular visits to the dentist. Gum disease, in particular, can create inflammation in the body that is linked to such conditions as diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, blood disorders, impaired immunity, bacterial pneumonia and possibly heart disease.
Often, families have to delay dental appointments because they cannot pay the high cost of dental insurance. One alternative that can help them continue their dentist visits is a discount dental plan that provides many dentistry services at reduced prices.
Some researchers believe the link between HPV and bad oral health isn't clear because the study didn't indicate a higher risk of a long-lasting infection,which is the type that can lead to cancer. Anna Giuliano, Ph.D., of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., told Medline Plus that the current study doesn't answer that question.
Two vaccines are available for use against the most common cancer-linked strains of HPV and are widely administered to girls, boys and young adults. But those whose data was used for the UT study were adults who would not have received the vaccines.
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