No matter how old you are, going to the dentist can be downright scary. And for most of us, avoiding the dentist is a good enough reason to practice good oral hygiene. That and making sure your breath doesn’t knock out your loved ones, of course.
But let’s be honest. Flossing can be pretty annoying, if not time-consuming. And that may be why only 30% of Americans floss daily. One analysis found that nearly a third of Americans flat-out don’t floss. Period. That statistic is similar to the percentage of the population that doesn’t brush enough.
Gross. If you fall into either (or both) of the categories, there may now be an even bigger reason to start taking care of your mouth: cancer.
What Does the Science Say?
According to a presentation given at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting earlier this year, researchers at the Ohio State University studied the dental health behaviors of patients who were diagnosed with oral cancer compared to those of non-cancer patients.
Every participant in the study responded to a survey that asked questions about their flossing habits, the regularity of their dentist visits, their sexual activity, and their smoking or drinking habits.
After adjusting for various factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, and race, the researchers found that poor oral hygiene was associated with a significantly increased risk of non-human papilloma virus (HPV) oral cancer.
Specifically, patients visited their dentist less than once a year had twice the risk of developing non-HPV oral cancer compared to non-cancer patients. The data for flossing were similar — people who flossed more than once a day were half as likely to develop oral cancer as those who flossed less than once a day.
What Do Bacteria Have to do With It?
Although the cause for the link between poor oral hygiene and oral cancer is unclear, scientists believe that the oral microbiome likely has something to do with it. In previous studies, the same team found that poor oral hygiene practices cause a shift in the oral microbiome into one that promotes chronic inflammation.
And if there’s one type of disease that’s well known for its association chronic inflammation, it’s cancer.
Brush and Floss Your Teeth — But Don’t Forget Your Tongue
The research findings show correlation, but not causation. This means that more research will be required before we can definitively say an imbalanced oral microbiome causes cancer.
Still, cancer prevention is just one of the many reasons to take care of your mouth, and that means going beyond your normal brushing and flossing. That’s right — you need to clean your tongue. That’s because a major source of bad breath is actually the back of your tongue, where a bacterial coating harbors nasty organisms and debris that contribute to bad breath.
And if you want to clean your tongue properly, you need a tongue scraper. Using one will remove that slimy film of bad bacteria at the back of your tongue, which will give the good bacteria a chance to grow.
The good news is that it takes less than 10 seconds. Interested? Try our tongue scraper for just $1. It'll keep you healthy, so you can focus on more important things.
Written by: Hyo Sook Song