Patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) who practice better dental care and consume less alcohol and tobacco have better survival times than those who don’t, according to a study funded by the German Research Foundation.
The study recruited 276 HNSCC cases and followed them for 6 to 10 years. Interviews included information about dentures, gum bleeding, brushing, flossing, and dental visits, in addition to mouthwash use, smoking, drinking, and diet. The researchers defined good dental care by annual dental visits, daily teeth cleaning, and flossing.
The difference in median survival time between patients with good dental care and poor dental care was 81 months. According to the researchers, the results imply a lack of dental care might contribute to the risk of earlier death or tumor progression, but the effect was not statistically significant.
Patients who smoked 20 cigarettes a day saw their risk of tumor recurrence or death increase by a factor of 3. Patients who had at 2 alcoholic drinks a day saw their risk of tumor progression increase by a factor of 1.5. The researchers also found that using alcoholic or non-alcoholic mouthwash at least twice a day doubled the risk of tumor-specific death, though reasons why remain unclear.
While these elevated hazard ratios indicate good dental care may have a positive impact on survival rates, the researchers noted, the study’s value is limited by its small sample size. The study, “Pretreatment Oral Hygiene Habits and Survival of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC) Patients,” was published by BMC Oral Health.