London: Poor oral hygiene seems to elevate the risk of death from cancer, because too much of dental plaque has been linked to premature cancer death by Swedish researchers.
An observational study examined 1,390 people between 1985 and 2009. At the beginning, participants were quizzed on factors likely to increase their cancer risk and their mouth hygiene was also assessed.
After 24 years, 58 patients had died, 35 as a result of cancer. Those who died had a significantly higher amount of dental plaque than survivors, researchers discovered, the journal BMJ Open online reports.
The dental plaque index in those who had died was higher than those who had survived. Dental plaque is made up of a film of bacteria, which the teeth, including the gaps between the teeth and gums, according to the Telegraph.
Those who died scored between 0.84 to 0.91 on the index - indicating that the gum area of the teeth had been covered with plaque - and the survivors had consistently lower scores of 0.66 to 0.67 - indicating only partial plaque coverage.
The average age of death was 61 for the women and 60 for the men. The women would have been expected to live around 13 years longer, and the men an additional 8.5 years, so their deaths could be considered premature, say the authors.
The authors write: "Based on the present findings, the high bacterial load on tooth surfaces and in gingival (gums) pockets over a prolonged time may indeed play a role in carcinogenesis."
"Our study hypothesis was confirmed by the finding that poor (mouth) hygiene, as reflected in the amount of dental plaque, was associated with increased cancer mortality," they write.
"Further studies are required to determine whether there is any causal element in the observed association," they concluded.