Dental Cavities Lower Risk of Head and Neck Cancer, Study


People with more cavities in their teeth are 32 percent less likely to suffer from head and neck cancers, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Buffalo.

"To our knowledge, the present study suggests, for the first time, an independent association between dental caries and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma," researchers said.

The researchers claim that bad teeth can prove to be beneficial because the lactic acid produced by bacteria in cavities stop the development of cancer cells.

 'This was an unexpected finding since dental cavities have been considered a sign of poor oral health along with [gum] disease, and we had previously observed an increased risk of head and neck cancers among subjects with [gum] disease,'said lead researcher Dr Mine Tezal, at the University of Buffalo, New York, told Health Day.

The experts arrived at the conclusion after studying 620 adults at a dental and maxillofacial prosthetics clinic at a comprehensive cancer center. They compared 399 people with head and neck cancer to 221 people who did not have cancer.

They found that the participants with most dental carries were least likely to have cancer.

Tezal explains that cavities form due to lactic acid produced by bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria are similar to those used in yogurt. Apart from preventing head and neck cancer, they also help in lowering the risk of inflammatory diseases, allergies and some other types of cancer.

 'We see a mechanism that may protect against mouth cancer, and may be a potential strategy either as part of prevention or treatment of oral cavity cancer,' said Dr Dennis Kraus at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City, told Health Day. 'This is a fascinating first step."

The findings were published online Sept. 12 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

"Multiple studies have shown that dental caries and associated bacteria elicit a potent Th1 immune response in peripheral blood mononuclear cells promoting CD8+ T-cell responses. Whereas Th2 and Th17 cell responses have been generally associated with increased risk of cancer, Th1 cell response has been consistently associated with decreased risk of cancer," they said.

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