Flossing is obviously a cornerstone of a good dental hygiene regimen.
A new study, however, suggests that the benefits are more far reaching than fresher breath and healthier gums.
Flossing removes plaque, especially in hard-to-reach areas that a toothbrush misses. Removal of debris under the gum and in between teeth is an effective way to fight against gingivitis, a mild form of periodontal disease.
This gum disease is a serious ailment that can damage soft tissue and lead the loss of teeth. Thankfully, periodontal disease is largely preventable and treatable.
Individuals who do not improve their poor gum health are at a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, a new study concluded.
The risk of stomach and throat cancers are increased by 52 and 43 percent, respectively, in individuals with a history of gum disease.
Tooth loss can also increase the risk for types of cancer. People who have lost two or more teeth face a 33 and 42 percent risk increase to developing stomach and throat cancer, respectively.
Even when individuals adjust for other risk factors, poor dental health can still lead to developing two gastrointestinal cancers, the study found.
The findings are worrying. About half of all American adults who are 30 years or older have a form of gum disease, according to statistics compiled by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
In order to conduct the study, scientists analyzed health data gathered form tens of thousands of medical professionals in two long-term studies. This research included nearly 100,000 women and nearly 50,000 men, tracing their health for 22 to 28 years.
In follow-ups, people with any history of poor gum health and disease expressed a 59 percent higher risk of throat cancer compared to those who never had periodontal disease. Tooth loss was not a significant factor either way.
For stomach cancer, tooth loss increased the risk by nearly 20 percent.
As interconnected parts within the body, the mouth, esophagus and stomach are instrumental to the digestive system.
Researchers are not surprised about the marker for illness present in this interrelationship.
Gum inflammation has also shown to be linked to higher system inflammation. When this occurs, there’s a mechanism in place for cancer development.
Another consideration in the study is the role of bacteria in the mouth, which can increase as dental health and hygiene worsen.
Pathogens that lead to tooth loss are also associated with tumors in both the stomach and esophagus.