Failing to take care of your teeth and gums increases your risk of infection with the oral form of human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cancer of the mouth and throat, NPR.org reports. University of Texas researchers asked nearly 3,500 people to rate their oral health and then had dental hygienist examine them. They found that those who reported having poor oral health were 55 percent more likely to have an HPV infection than those who rated their oral health as good.
The risk of HPV was similarly elevated among those with gum disease or missing teeth, and the risks raised by poor dental health remained even if participants didn’t engage in activities known to increase the likelihood of contracting HPV. Even if people don’t smoke, and are not having wild and crazy sex all over the place,says study author Christine Markham, not having good oral hygiene is still a risk factor for oral HPV. One in 15 Americans has an oral HPV infection, and nearly 12,000 new cases of HPV-caused cancers of the throat, tonsils, and tongue are diagnosed each year.