People with swollen gums, missing teeth and other signs of poor dental health are more likely to be infected orally with the human papillomavirus, researchers reported Wednesday.
HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, causes cancers of the cervix, mouth and throat. The new study, published in Cancer Prevention Research, is the first to document a link between the infection and poor oral health, but other experts noted that the research found only an association and relied mostly on self-reported data about oral health.
This finding suggests another potential downside to deficient hygiene “because of a possible association between poor to fair oral health and the presence of the human papillomavirus, which in itself is identified with several diseases,” said Dr. Sol Silverman, a professor of oral medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a spokesman for the American Dental Association.
Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston reviewed data on high-risk and low-risk oral HPV infection and oral health in 3,439 adults ages 30 to 69 participating in the nationally representative 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, known as NHANES. The study found that being male, smoking cigarettes and having multiple oral sex partners increased the likelihood of oral HPV infection, findings similar to those in an earlier analysis of NHANES data.
But after controlling for smoking and the number of oral sex partners, the new study found that self-rated poor oral health was an independent risk for oral HPV infection. The odds of having an oral HPV infection were 55 percent higher among those reporting poor to fair oral health.
“What we think might be happening is if you have poor oral health — ulcers, gum inflammation, sores or lesions, any openings in the mouth —that might provide entry for HPV,” said Christine Markham, the second author on the paper and an associate professor of health promotion and behavioral sciences at the Houston center.
NEW YORK TIMES