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Dental Cavities and Risk of Head and Neck Cancers

dental cavities and risk of head and neck cancersCavities are often associated with poor dental health and a higher risk of certain health problems. However, recent research indicates that cavities may not be all bad. According to study authors, the oral bacteria that cause some types of head and neck cancers release lactic acid, which may have protective effects against cancer cells.

The study, which was published in “JAMA Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery,” evaluated more than 600 patients with and without head and neck cancers. Patients with more cavities were less likely to have head or neck cancers even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, alcohol use, marital status, and sex.

The study authors caution people from neglecting their dental hygiene while indicating that they may need to avoid anything that could shift the normal oral balance. The lactic acid produced by cavity-causing bacteria can also be found in the live cultures in yogurt. These bacteria help promote healthy digestion, and when there are too few of them, you may be more prone to inflammation, obesity, allergies, and cancers.

There are limitations to this study, and patients are encouraged to continue eating a balanced diet, brushing their teeth about twice a day, and flossing daily. Tooth decay can increase the risk of not just gum disease but also tooth loss, bone loss, poor nutritional status, and other potentially serious health problems. More research is needed to determine the link between lactic acid bacteria and a reduced cancer risk, but patients who are at a higher risk may talk to their doctors or dentists about how they may benefit from eating more yogurt or other foods with active cultures. Give us a call today to find out more or to schedule your appointment with our Northridge dentist.

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