According to a study published in the journal of American Association for Cancer Research, superb oral health may actually reduce the risk of HPV infections and HPV-related cancers.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center revealed that regardless of smoking habits or oral sex behaviours, the overall health of teeth and particularly the gums, play an important factor in the development of HPV infections.
Based on the results conducted among 3,439 participants between the ages of 30 and 69; the survey looked into the participants’ HPV status as well as other health indicators such as the presence of gum disease, mouthwash use, missing teeth, and other dental problems within the past week of the survey.
Thanh Cong Bui, Ph.D., a member of the team and a postdoctoral research fellow at the university's School of Public Health, stated that, “Although more research is needed to confirm the causal relationship between oral health and oral HPV infection, people may want to maintain good oral health for a variety of health benefits.”
What is HPV
HPV or the human papillomavirus is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). The virus can infect not only the genital area but also the mouth and throat. It must be stressed that HPV is not similar to the human immune virus (HIV). However they are quite similar since individuals – whether sexually active or not – are susceptible to HPV.
HPV can lead to damaging problems including cancer but in most cases, HPV will disappear even without the person knowing they had it. If the infection persists, HPV can cause genital warts or develop into cancer. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), cervical cancer is the most prevalent HPV related cancer among women and oral cancer for the men.
Oral Health and HPV infection
Based on the study, bad oral health – or precisely – unhealthy and bleeding gums can serve as an entry way for an HPV infection.
The research team further stated that while the results need additional study, it raises the importance of oral health in many aspects of our overall health condition. Dr. Thanh Cong Bui concluded that, "Given that oral hygiene is fundamental for oral health and that it is modifiable, public health interventions may aim to promote oral hygiene and oral health as additional preventive measures for HPV-related oral cancers.”
Listen up, moms! We are all aware that pregnancy is a delicate period and to ensure the health of the baby, expectant mothers are advised to practice extra caution when it comes to their diet and lifestyle. In addition to that however, researchers and dental professionals are also recommending pregnant women to take care of their teeth and gums.
As suggested by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) and the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP), these recommendations are based on research studies showing a possible correlation between periodontal disease and premature birth or low birth weight.
Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy
Periodontal or gum disease is a chronic, bacteria-induced condition that causes the inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, the ailment can worsen and affect the underlying gum tissues, weaken the bones supporting teeth, and even spread to the body. As we’ve noted earlier, there is a growing body of evidence that gum disease is linked to other health complaints such as diabetes, osteoporosis, and respiratory problems.
In a similar manner, bacteria from the gums can seep into the bloodstream, reach the uterus, and trigger the production of chemicals that eventually induces premature birth.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions that premature birth or babies weighing less than 2.49 kilograms (5.5 pounds) are prone to long-term health problems and may even have implications on the development of their learning and motor skills.
As periodontal disease can be prevented or treated, expectant mothers are advised to take care of their oral health by adopting a strict regimen of brushing, flossing, and gargling with mouthwash. A visit to the dentist is also recommended as the dentist can assess the overall health of the teeth and gums.
If going for a treatment, surgeries should be avoided until after birth. However, non-surgical and non-invasive procedures such as root planning, scaling, and medicines are available. As always, check with a dentist to see the best form of treatment for during your period of pregnancy.