Everyone knows that they need to brush their teeth, floss regularly and use mouthwash, but most people think that those steps will only help improve their dental health. According to a new study, brushing regularly may also help reduce your risk of cancer. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in America. Annual screenings can help you stay on top of your cancer risk, and doctors often recommend that those with a family history of ovarian, breast, lung and other types of cancer receive regular check ups. Brushing your teeth might help you stay healthy too.

HPV and Dental Hygiene

HPV, also known as the human papillomavirus, is a type of disease often classified as a sexually transmitted disease or infection. Several studies found a link between oral sex and HPV, and even actor Michael Douglas believes in those studies. Douglas, who spent more than a year recovering from throat cancer, blamed his cancer on HPV, which he contracted through unprotected oral sex. Unprotected oral sex increases your risk of contracting HPV, which can lead to genital warts and other uncomfortable symptoms. Oral sex causes an increase in bacteria in your mouth, and that bacteria can cause cancer and other diseases.

Increased Risk of Death

Certain types of cancer are highly treatable. With proper treatment and medication, you can live for decades after cancer appears in your body. A large number of patients also go through remission, which is when the cancer stops attacking the body. Improper care of your mouth and teeth can increase your risk of dying from cancer. One study found that those who didn’t brush their teeth regularly risked dying more than a decade before patients who did take care of their oral hygiene. The study also found that poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease, which can affect the heart and other organs in the body.

How Brushing Helps

Think of your mouth as a small colony of people and bacteria as a group of invaders. When you brush every day and after meals, you use toothpaste and other products that kill bacteria and reduces the toxins in your mouth. That toothpaste essentially wards off the threat of invaders. Even brushing your teeth once a day can help eliminate bacteria more than if you didn’t brush your teeth at all.

HPV: The Dangerous Threat

Many patients with HPV do not suffer any symptoms, and as they don’t realize they have HPV, they pass it to their sexual partners. Though doctors recommend that people get tested for STIs once a year, many people think they don’t need testing because they are in monogamous relationships. You never know when your partner might have the condition or when your partner contracts the condition from unprotected sex. Left untreated, HPV can lead to a number of medical conditions, including anus cancer and vaginal cancer. Brushing your teeth can kill bacteria and reduce your threat of some cancers, but you also need to see your doctor for regular screenings and check ups.