BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Tooth decay is usually thought of as a bad thing. But a team of researchers at UB Dental School and Roswell Park found participants in a study who had more cavities were less likely to have cancers.
The researchers studied the oral health status of 620 people. Of those, 399 had cancers of the oral cavity region. But surprisingly, the participants who had more cavities were less likely to have cancer.
Dr. Frank Scannapieco said, "We expected the people with cancer to have more dental cavities, and in fact, we found the opposite. And now it makes us think about why dental decay would protect people possibly against cancer."
Dr. Scannapieco is chairman of the department of oral biology at UB Dental School. He explains that dental cavities are caused by bacteria.
"When the individual eats sugar, certain bacteria that are stuck to the teeth convert the sugar to acid, which basically then drills a hole in the tooth, which we call a cavity," he explained.
The next step for researchers is to determine what the decay-producing bacteria do that might be beneficial.
"It's clear that not all bacteria are bad. In fact, most bacteria in our bodies are probably good, and we really only want to selectively eliminate the bad ones," Dr. Scannapieco said.
But the study doesn't mean you should eat lots of sugar. Researchers need to first find what good the bacteria do and learn how to keep that while eliminating the acid they produce that causes tooth decay.
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