Health News : Can brushing and flossing keep HPV infections at bay?

Here’s another legitimate reason to keep those pearly whites clean and healthy by brushing a flossing! Scientists have discovered a link between gum disease, which is usually caused by poor oral hygiene and human papillomavirus(HPV), a viral infection.

HVP is best known for causing cervical cancer, the second most common malignancy in women worldwide, but certain strains of the virus can also a cause anal, penile, head, and neck cancers. The virus has now been linked to oropharyngeal cancer. These are cancers that occur on the tongue, tonsils and the throat.

New research indicates that frequent brushing and flossing might be able to slash the risk of infection.

Co-author Christine Markham, deputy director of UT’s Prevention Research Center and an associate professor at University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston stated, “They’re not a smoker; they’re not having wild and crazy sex all over the place. Even if they’re not doing any of those things, not having good oral hygiene is still a risk factor for oral HPV.”

Link between HPV infection and oral health examined
To establish the link between oral HPV infection and oral health, researchers analyzed data from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They studied the oral health history of nearly 3,500 subjects in the age bracket of 30 to 69.

The participants were questions about gum disease, their use of mouthwash to treat oral health problems. Additionally, they were subjected to an oral health exam for missing teeth.

The analysis found that about one-third of the respondents reportedly had poor to fair oral health. Among them, 56 percent were more prone to an oral HPV infection than those exhibiting better oral hygiene.

Subjects with gum disease and dental problems had a 51 percent and 28 percent higher prevalence of the virus respectively. A link between infections and the number of lost teeth was also perceived.

Even after factoring other possible risks like smoking and participating in oral sex, the study found participants with poorer oral health were more vulnerable to an HPV infection.

Christine Markham explained, “The virus needs some kind of entryway. If you have poor oral health, that may set up ulcers [or other conditions that serve as an] entry portal for the virus to get into the epithelium (the tissue and cells lining the mouth) and body.”

The study, published in Cancer Prevention Research, only delved into poor oral hygiene and HPV.

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