Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a viral infection that causes more than 26,200 cancers in the United States.  Most commonly, it's linked to the development of cervical cancer in women.  It is also responsible for thousands of cases of oropharyngeal - or throat - cancers in men and women, according the the CDC.   But new research shows that better brushing and flossing might be able to slash the risk of infection.

According to a study released today from researchers at the the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston, people with poor oral health are more likely to have an oral HPV infection than those who are better and brushing and flossing.  

For the study, researchers evaluated CDC studies in which participants were not only tested for HPV, they were also given an oral exam and asked to rate their overall oral health.  They found that about one-third of the 3,439 surveyed reported having poor to fair oral health. Within that group, participants were 50 percent more likely to have an oral HPV infection than those with better oral hygiene. Researchers factored out other possible risks for HPV infection including smoking and participating in oral sex.  Still, their results showed that study participants with poorer oral health were more likely to have an HPV infection.

It's too soon to make a direct leap between better brushing and lower HPV risk, but it certainly gives another good reason to keep those pearly whites clean and healthy!

The results were published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

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