New Study Finds Dental Caries May Reduce Risk of Head and Neck Cancers

November 7, 2013 by Dr. Emanuel Layliev Blog


People with bad teeth may have a lower risk of getting head and neck cancer, according to a surprising new study.

Conducted at the University at Buffalo, NY, the study involved 399 patients that had been recently diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), and 221 participants who were cancer-free. Researchers examined the dental history of all participants, paying particular interest to dental caries or cavities.

What they found

The data confirmed that participants who had a lot of cavities were less likely to have HNSCC than those who had only a few, or no dental caries. While not groundbreaking, the results of the study will be published in JAMA Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, as will possible explanations for what the researchers found.

Common consensus

Although tooth decay is most assuredly unhealthy, it does produce lactic acid, which is bad for our teeth, but otherwise beneficial. In particular, it is believed that the normally healthy bacteria can protect against chronic inflammatory diseases and HNSCC. This does not, of course, mean that having bad teeth is good for you. But according to the researchers, preserving the salubrious effects of lactic acid and eliminating the harmful ones might improve general health.

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