Oral Hygiene and cancer

Dr Ruchi Shah
Cancer is a menace that is spreading rapidly globally but more particularly in the developing nations like India. There are a number of risk factors associated with the cancers like food habits, smoking, alcohol, economic conditions and genetics. But there is one more important factor that contributes to the rise of cancers, mostly gastrointestinal cancers and it is oral hygiene. Oral hygiene prevents tooth decay as well as cancers that arise due to inflammation of oral cavity because of poor oral hygiene. Its very important to maintain healthy microbiome inside your oral cavity. In recent studies, it has been suggested that poor oral hygiene leads to growth of various viruses that leads to infection of gums which causes inflammation that in later stages develop into oropharyngeal cancers.
Researchers found that of more than 3,400 U.S. adults, those who rated their oral health as “poor” to “fair” were more likely to have an oral infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which, in certain cases, can eventually lead to cancer. It’s already known that poor oral hygiene is tied to a heightened risk of oropharyngeal cancer, even when smoking and heavy drinking — two big risk factors for the cancer — are taken into account. Several studies have shown an association of esophageal cancer with poor oral hygiene. Tobacco smoking and heavy alcohol consumption are major risk factors of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) in Western countries. However, in areas with high incidence of ESCC, including central China and northern Iran, these habits are not major risk factors. An association between indicators of poor oral hygiene and ESCC has been reported in several studies from very high-risk areas of China and Iran and from other areas including Latin America, Europe, and Japan. However, a few studies have not supported this association. ESCC is the most common cancer in Kashmir Valley in India (Khuroo et al, 1992), where similar to other high-incidence areas, little is known about the etiology of ESCC.
A study by Nazir Ahmed Dar has shown that the Poor oral hygiene can lead to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease and caries both are characterized by chronic bacterial infections, the major causes of tooth damage and loss in adults. Tobacco smoking, a risk factor for ESCC, can also cause periodontal disease and tooth loss. In addition, low socioeconomic status, which may be associated with poor oral health, has consistently been linked to ESCC risk. Therefore, the association between poor oral hygiene and ESCC can be confounded by tobacco use and socioeconomic status. In conclusion, human mouth is a place where most of the microbes flourish. Its very important to keep the oral cavity clean and hygienic so as to prevent various infections that can lead to inflammation which later can lead to various cancers.
(The author is Scientist- Centre for Advanced Research, University of Kashmir)