Cavities In The Teeth Linked With A Smaller Risk Of Neck And Head Cancer

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Surprising findings from a recent study have found that those who suffer with more dental cavities are at a decreased risk of neck and head cancer in comparison with those who have a small number or no cavities at all.

Cavities or caries, as they are also known, are the result of tooth decay. This is caused by bacteria within the mouth which produces lactic acid. This acid then strips the minerals of the tooth leading to small holes which expand into cavities.

The new research, carried out at the University of Buffalo, NY, draws on previous studies, which show that the bacteria responsible for tooth decay are also often responsible for responsive immune system, which in turn may protect the body against cancer.

The new study set out with the intention to find if such a link between dental cavities and a prevention of neck and head cancer truly existed.

The research involved 399 patients who had recently been diagnosed with Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC) and 221 participants who did not have cancer. The groups were chosen from the  Department of Dentistry and Maxillofacial Prosthetics at the Roswell Park Cancer between 1999 and 2007. The researchers studied the dental history of the patients, especially a history of dental cavities, decayed teeth and missing teeth.

The research found that the lactic bacteria attacking the teeth was also present in the saliva of the person, which in turn were beneficial at protecting them against inflammatory diseases and HNSCC. The researchers described the decay at ‘collateral damage’ and are now looking for ways to enhance the positives of the bacteria, without exacerbating the risks. This could involve managing plaque mechanically, whilst diet and the use of fluoride could also be likely options.

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