It’s best to take good care of your pearly whites, as according to TIME, brushing your teeth may lessen your risk of developing oral cancers related to the human papillomavirus or HPV.

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease normally caught through genital contact. However, it can also be passed on through oral sex. Left untreated, HPV may cause unwelcome growths in the mouth and throat. What is worrisome is that such cases are not rare. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 60 percent of mouth, throat, tonsils, and tongue cancers are linked to HPV.

In a study initially published in Cancer Prevention Research, experts from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston analyzed data on more than 3,400 participants from 30 to 69 years old who were surveyed between 2009 and 2010. Statistics revealed that those who had poor oral health were 56 percent more at risk of developing an HPV infection than those who had good oral hygiene. Also, individuals who had existing teeth, mouth, and throat problems were 51 percent more at risk than those who were orally healthy.

This highlights the importance of keeping your mouth clean as often as you can. Aside from brushing, flossing, and gargling in the morning and before bed, it’s best to have an in-between session with your pearly whites after a heavy lunch or merienda. Not only will you have a killer smile but also a better chance of protecting yourself against oral cancer.

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(Photo by Anderson Mancini via Flickr Creative Commons)

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