Can Poor Dental Hygiene Cause Cancer? What You Kneed to Know

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When you think of poor dental hygiene, the first things that probably come to mind are cavities, bad breath, and maybe even a scolding from your dentist.

Can Poor Dental Hygiene Cause Cancer?

However, evidence suggests that neglecting your teeth could have far more serious consequences. For example, research shows that the state of our teeth and gums is related to our heart health. Therefore, poor oral hygiene can increase the risk of heart disease and even stroke. 

Also, failure to observe proper dental hygiene is associated with the worsening of respiratory infections. However, most concerning is the emerging evidence suggesting a possible association between gum infections and an increased risk of certain cancers. In this article, we will discuss how poor dental hygiene is related to overall health and its link, however remote, to cancer. 

The Link Between Poor Dental Hygiene and Cancer

Let us begin with the basics. What does the phrase “poor dental hygiene” mean? It is more than just skipping brushing for a day or two. Instead, it involves not brushing and flossing, avoiding dental appointments and care, and simply disregarding the importance of oral health. The result? A breeding ground for germs, too many germs.

But how does something as basic as not flossing lead to cancer? Well, it all starts with the bacteria. Bacteria in our mouth reproduce at a very fast rate when we are not keen on our dental habits. They can cause gum disease. 

If ignored, the bacteria, in combination with the inflammation, can spread to your blood and cause many major illnesses, cancer being one of them.

What Science Has to Say About It?

Now, we will turn our attention to what science is there to connect poor dental hygiene with cancer. Interesting stuff, right? For example, A South Korea-based study, published in the Journal of Frontiers of Oncology in 2022, revealed a positive association between gum disease and the risk of developing certain types of cancer, especially oral cancer.

Another study published in the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery by Liu and his colleagues in 2024 suggests that poor dental hygiene is associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer. 

Types of Cancer Linked to Poor Dental Hygiene

Oral Cancer: As obvious from the location, the health of our teeth and gums is closely related to oral health. Under severe conditions, when you neglect proper dental care, you expose your oral cavity – mouth, lips, tongue, and throat – to an increased risk of oral cancer. Some of the early signs of oral cancer include, 

  • Painless non-healing sores
  • Foul-smelling breath that won’t go away no matter what you do
  • Difficulty in swallowing

If the signs are detected early, the disease can be treated well before it becomes a cancer. The only thing you need to do is to visit your dentist. 

Esophageal Cancer: Poor oral hygiene is also associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Anything we eat passes through the esophagus and reaches the stomach. That’s why poor oral health can affect the health of the esophagus.

Esophageal Cancer:

For example, when you have gum disease, the germs from your mouth can easily move across the back of your throat to reach the esophagus, where they can cause inflammation. 

Pancreatic Cancer:  Poor dental hygiene is also associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. We can’t tell exactly why, but research has shown an association between the history of gum disease and pancreatic cancer. 

The exact process is not known. Nonetheless, inflammation and the growth of bacteria are presumed to be involved. This is a reminder that negligence on our oral health can lead to much more drastic outcomes than we have ever imagined. 

Mechanisms Behind the Link

  • Bacteria and Inflammation: Bacteria and inflammation are the two major players behind the link between poor oral hygiene and cancer. When you fail to brush your teeth or forget to visit your dentist, your oral cavity becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria present in the mouth can cause inflammation of the gums, leading to gum disease. Inflammation produces certain chemicals that travel, along with the germs, through the blood and affect the rest of your body. 
  • Chronic Inflammation and Cancer Development: Inflammation has been named one of the major consistent processes that promote cancer. Inflammation kills cells and can alter genes, creating the potential for cancer.So, by keeping your mouth clean and healthy, you’re reducing the risk of these harmful inflammatory changes in your body.
  • Effects of Poor Dental Hygiene on the Immune System: Neglecting oral health goes a long way in increasing your susceptibility to several other diseases, as your oral health stands at the frontline of your overall health.  A weak frontline can increase your susceptibility to infections. Ultimately, your immune system gets weaker and struggles to protect your body against illnesses. This additional pressure can, at times, put your body in a prone position to diseases and infections, including cancer.

Why Is Good Oral Hygiene Important?

Now that you know the downsides of poor dental hygiene, you should also know the benefits of good oral health.

Dental Hyg

Good oral hygiene is more important for overall health than just its role in avoiding bad breath and cavity-prone teeth. Your mouth is the entrance to your body. If you keep it clean, you’re setting up a strong defense against all sorts of health issues.

The use of a toothbrush and interdental cleaner helps remove food particles and plaque, a thin, clinging layer on your teeth.

Additionally, routine checkups are excellent for identifying issues before they become worse. Want to know more about how you can keep your teeth and gums healthy? Read ahead. 

Tips for Maintaining Good Dental Hygiene

Brushing and Flossing Techniques

How you can keep your mouth – and your body – healthy. First, clean your teeth for at least two minutes two times a day. Brush your teeth with a soft bristle and fluoride-containing paste. Remember to use fluoride floss to clean the teeth and remove debris.

Regular Dental Checkups

You should visit your dentist regularly for checkups. Regular checkups can help you identify the problem early on and grab it from its root before things go out of hand.

Additionally, your dentist can also give you special recommendations based on your unique needs and concerns.  

Healthy Diet and Lifestyle Choices

Just like with any aspect of your health, a healthy diet and lifestyle is incredibly important for your oral health. For starters, you can reduce your intake of sugary foods and drinks as they are often linked with poor dental health and problems like dental caries

Fruits Vegies

Instead, you should increase the use of fruits and vegetables in your regular meals. Fruits and vegetables provide you with the essential nutrients to boost your oral health to its maximum potential. Finally, strictly avoid using tobacco products and alcohol as they negatively affect your oral health.


Can poor dental hygiene lead to cancer?

We have discussed in detail how poor dental hygiene is related to an increased risk of cancer. But let’s cut the long story short. This increase in risk is associated with inflammation and germs, both of which are related to gum disease. The danger can, however, be reduced by using good dental hygiene practices.

What signs signal the presence of oral cancer?

Signs of oral cancer include:

  • Foul-smelling breath
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Lumps in your mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding

If you notice any of the above signs, you should consult with your healthcare provider. The sooner, the better.

How often should you visit your dentist?

It is generally advised that you visit your dentist at least once every six months. But, if the person has persistent gum issues or factors that predispose to gum-related disease, you should visit your dentist more often.

How does diet affect your dental hygiene?

Absolutely! A diet high in sugars and carbohydrates can promote tooth decay and gum disease. In comparison, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can strengthen your teeth and gums.


Good oral hygiene is more than just about brushing your teeth and a whitish smile. Instead, it’s more about maintaining your overall health. You can use methods such as using a toothbrush and dental floss, visiting the dentist, and making the right choices to protect yourself from the dreadful connection between dental diseases and cancer. 

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