Regular brushing and flossing may do more than give you a pleasing smile: Good oral hygiene may also guard against cancer.
British researchers found that men with a history of gum disease had a 14 per cent higher risk of developing cancer than those who were free of gum problems.
The study, published in the journal Lancet Oncology, is based on health questionnaires completed by more than 48,000 male volunteers who were tracked for almost 18 years.
This is not the first time oral health has been linked to overall well-being. Previous studies have found an association between heart disease and poor oral hygiene.
Scientists are not sure why bad gums and rotten teeth might undermine health. One possibility is that sores in the mouth provide an entry point for harmful pathogens that contribute to disease.
"More and more evidence suggests oral health has a more general impact on health than previously believed," lead researcher Dominique Michaud of Imperial College London said in an e-mail. "So, it is critical for everyone to look after their teeth."