Dental Plaque Buildup May Increase Your Cancer Risk

A recent study shows that poor dental hygiene may negatively affect more than just your breath and your social life. Researchers in Sweden have found a strong link between the build-up of dental plaque and an increased risk of cancer and early death. These findings were reported in a recent article in MedPage Today.

Healthy adults who developed dental plaque build-up were found to be 79% more likely to die prematurely. Surprisingly, this made dental plaque one of the strongest indicators of increased risk of premature death found in the study.

Healthy Swedes Used in 24-Year Scandinavian Study

This Swedish and Finnish-funded study involved 1,390 healthy Swedish adults. These participants were randomly selected, between 30-40 years in age, and free of periodontitis, or gum disease. The study was designed to test the same few variables over a long period of time, which in this case was 24 years.

These study participants were originally screened in 1985, and then given additional screenings in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2009. Their screenings included general physical examinations, as well as oral health examinations and a discussion of smoking habits.

The Link Between Dental Health and Cancer

Age and male gender were also found to be strong indicators for premature death, two characteristics that have been shown conclusively in several other studies. However, the strong correlation between dental health and premature death offers new insights into this possible relationship. Study participants who survived the 24-year study showed markedly lower plaque build-up than those who died prematurely.

Birgitta Söder, a PhD at the Karolinska Institutet in Huddinge, Sweden, reported with her study colleges that there were stark differences between the teeth of the dead and living participants “regarding the amount of dental plaque, gingival inflammation, and dental calculus, indicating a significantly poorer dental status in the subjects who died when compared with survivors.”

How Could Oral Hygiene Lead to Premature Death?

The cause of this premature death risk may lie in the toxins and enzymes present in dental plaque build-up. According to the authors of this study, over time these dangerous materials may be released from the built-up biofilm on the teeth. They can eventually find their way into the patient’s bloodstream through the gingival crevices. The presence of these toxins may contribute to cancerous malignancies.

What Can I Do to Prevent Dental Plaque Build-up?

Good dental hygiene is key to preventing the build-up of this surprisingly dangerous plaque on your teeth. This may include:

  • Regular, twice-daily brushing of your teeth with a bristled, soft toothbrush with a rounded tip. Your brushing should be deliberate without being too vigorous or too gentle. Give special attention to the areas between your teeth and your gums, where plaque can easily build up.
  • Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with few snacks in between. Choose healthy foods when snacking to minimize lingering sugar on your teeth.
  • Have oral check-ups and cleanings at least every six months. This is crucial for early detection of problems that can worsen over time.
  • Floss every day between your teeth to remove any extra food particles. Both standard floss and individual disposable flossers are excellent for this purpose.
  • Talk to your dentist about advanced protection such as dental sealants.


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