Bad toothbrushing habits greatly increase your risk of contracting cancer.

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Your risk of developing cancer can be affected by your lifestyle choices and habits. The disease is more likely to develop if you don’t practice one of the most common hygiene practices.

It’s not always clear why cancer cells grow and divide in our bodies. However, identifying the risk factors can reduce the likelihood of you getting this deadly disease.

Evidence is mounting that poor lifestyle and habits are linked to higher cancer risk. These include things like smoking and eating processed foods, which are well-known risk factors.

A Harvard study has revealed that one mistake in your oral hygiene could increase your risk of developing gum disease. Here’s what you need to know about it.

What can you do to increase your cancer risk?

In a Harvard study published in Gut late last year, it was found that gum disease may increase the risk of two types of cancer.

Scientists have discovered that microbes caught between your teeth, gums, and stomach can raise your risk of getting cancers of the stomach or oesophagus.

Nearly 150,000 men, women and children were included in the study. They were followed up after a gap 28 years.

It was found that people who have had gum disease in the past are 33% more likely than others to develop oesophageal and 52% more likely for gastric (stomach cancer) complications. The risk was even greater for those suffering from severe gum disease that has led to tooth loss.

The study does not prove gum disease causes cancer. However, it does indicate that doctors might in the future be able to assess your gum health as part of their overall assessment of your cancer risk.

What are the symptoms and signs of gum disease

Gum disease, which causes gum swelling, inflammation and infection, is very common. There are many causes, but most commonly it is caused by plaque buildup.

According to the NHS, these are the first signs of gum disease.

  • Gums that are red and swelling
  • After brushing or flossing, bleeding gums

Gingivitis refers to the first stage of the disease. It can lead to periodontitis if it is not treated.

Periodontitis symptoms include:

  • Bad breath (halitosis).

  • A bad taste in your mouth

  • Loose teeth can make it difficult to eat

  • Gum abscesses are pus-filled areas under your teeth or gums.

How to prevent gum diseases

Gum disease can be prevented in most cases by maintaining good oral hygiene. American Dental Association recommends you brush your teeth twice per day, floss once a week, and have your teeth checked and cleaned regularly.

Periodontal surgery may be necessary if you have more severe gum disease.

The NHS explains: “Your dentist will be able to tell you about the procedure needed and how it’s carried out. If necessary, they can refer you to a specialist.”