Good Oral Health Linked to Improved Survival in Head & Neck Cancer

Better overall survival with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma associated with remaining natural teeth, frequent dental visits
Dental exam
Dental exam

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Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

FRIDAY, Sept. 22, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, good oral health is associated with improved survival, according to a study published online Sept. 19 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Jason Tasoulas, M.D., from the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues conducted a pooled analysis of 2,449 head and neck squamous cell carcinoma participants from four studies to examine poor oral health as a prognostic factor. Data were included on periodontal disease, tooth brushing frequency, mouthwash use, numbers of natural teeth, and dental visits over the 10 years prior to diagnosis.

The researchers found that better overall survival was seen in association with remaining natural teeth (risk ratios, 0.81 and 0.88 for 10 to 19 and ≥20 teeth, respectively) and frequent dental visits (risk ratio, 0.77 for more than five visits). Patients with hypopharyngeal and/or laryngeal and not otherwise specified head and neck squamous cell carcinoma had the most pronounced inverse association with natural teeth. Patients with oropharyngeal head and neck squamous cell carcinoma had the most pronounced association with dental visits. No associations with survival were seen for patient-reported gingival bleeding, tooth brushing, and report of ever use of mouthwash.

"These results emphasize the role of oral health maintenance not only to avoid treatment-related adverse outcomes like osteoradionecrosis but also as a potentially independent prognostic parameter for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed ties to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

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