Dental Floss, Cancer And Mortality: Is There An Association?

Usually, my focus on optimal health involves proper diet and exercise. But, are there other factors that can reduce mortality risk? More specifically, does how often I brush my teeth or floss have an impact on cancer and all-cause mortality?

Tooth brushing at night before bed and using dental floss every day were found to be significant risk factors for reducing mortality risk in 5611 older adults (median age 81, Paganini-Hill et al. 2011). Tooth brushing at night was found to be the most important time for reducing mortality risk, compared with the morning and during the day, as those who never brushed at night had a 20–35% (men and women, respectively) increased mortality risk. In addition, not brushing your teeth at all was associated with a 41–91% (men and women, respectively) increased mortality risk compared with those who brushed three times daily.

What about flossing? Never flossing increased mortality risk by 30%, compared with those who flossed everyday. And, to illustrate the importance of both tooth brushing and flossing at night, people who brushed their teeth at night every day but never flossed had an increased mortality risk of ~25% , when compared with those who flossed everyday.

One possible explanation for the decreased mortality risk found in those who floss daily is a reduced risk of cancer. For example, those who never floss were found to have ~3-fold more gastric precancerous lesions, when compared with controls (Salazar et al. 2012).

So, if you’re interested in optimal health and lifespan, flossing and tooth brushing every day, especially at night seems to be a must!

If you’re interested, please have a look at my book!


Paganini-Hill A, White SC, Atchison KA. Dental Health Behaviors, Dentition, and Mortality in the Elderly: The Leisure World Cohort Study. J Aging Res. 2011;2011:156061.

Salazar CR, Francois F, Li Y, Corby P, Hays R, Leung C, Bedi S, Segers S, Queiroz E, Sun J, Wang B, Ho H, Craig R, Cruz GD, Blaser MJ, Perez-Perez G, Hayes RB, Dasanayake A, Pei Z, Chen Y. Association between oral health and gastric precancerous lesions. Carcinogenesis. 2012 Feb;33(2):399-403.

Michael Lustgarten

Ph.D, Physiology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 2009 B.S., Biochemistry, Queens College, 2003 B.A, English Textual Studies, 1994, Syracuse University

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