Oral HPV: Another reason to brush and floss

Taking good care of those pearly whites could make you less likely to have oral HPV.

As if having sweet-smelling breath weren’t reason enough to brush and floss every day, there’s a study showing that people with good oral hygiene are less likely to have human papillomavirus (HPV) living in their mouths. In the study, about 7% of people with good brushing and flossing habits had measurable levels of HPV in their mouths, compared with 11% of those with poorer habits.

This study also showed that people who smoked tobacco or marijuana were more likely to have oral HPV compared to people who’d never smoked (15% vs. 6%)—so quitting smoking may also be a good way to cut your risk. There’s one risk factor that’s harder to change, though: males were three times more likely than females to have oral HPV (13% vs. 4%). Scientists still don’t know why guys are more likely than women to have oral HPV, but this study shows it’s not related to different hygiene habits.

Having less HPV hanging around is good because some types of HPV have been linked with cancer. Long-term HPV in the mouth can lead to cancers of the mouth and throat and long-term HPV in the vagina can lead to cervical cancer. For those who want to cut down on the chances of getting HPV of any kind, getting the HPV vaccine is a good place to start.

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