20 JUNE 2019

A new study from Queen’s University Belfast has found that people with poor oral health are more likely to develop liver cancer.

The investigation involved over 450,000 people across the UK and discovered that failing to look after your teeth and gums can make you up to 75% more likely to develop cancer of the liver.1

The potentially life-threatening disease is the latest in a long line of health conditions to be linked with poor oral hygiene. Higher risk of chronic disease such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes have also been linked with common oral health problems.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, explains that the research should serve as a reminder that the benefits of looking after your oral health go beyond a healthy mouth.

Dr Carter said: “Maintaining great oral health is a key aspect of living a longer and happier life, so it’s important not to take your oral health for granted.

“This study puts in to stark reality the potential knock-on impact of letting your oral health fall by the wayside, something we simply must avoid.

“Taking a relatively small amount of time each day to keep a clean and healthy mouth can make you far less likely to encounter some serious conditions in the future.

“It really is a no-brainer and considering that, for many of us, good oral health is not difficult to achieve, it should be something we continue to strive towards.”

The measures of poor oral health used in the study included painful or bleeding gums and loose teeth, both associated with gum disease.

While this is a very common dental health issue that the majority of people will encounter at some point, it is also preventable.

Liver cancer is the sixth biggest cancer killer in Europe, claiming the lives of almost 60,000 people each year.2

Dr Haydée WT Jordão, lead author of the study from Queen’s University Belfast, said: “When the liver is affected by diseases, such as hepatitis or cancer, its function will decline, and bacteria will survive for longer and therefore have the potential to cause more harm.

“One bacteria, Fusobacterium nucleatum, originates in the oral cavity but its role in liver cancer is unclear. Further studies investigating the microbiome and liver cancer are therefore warranted."

Leading dental health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, is keen to encourage Brits to look after their oral health and reap the benefits that come along with a healthy mouth.

“Getting into a simple routine that includes adequate care for your teeth, gums and mouth in general can be really beneficial,” Dr Carter adds.

“Brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, maintaining a healthy balanced diet and visiting the dentist as often as they recommend are all very achievable habits.

“Sometimes a little effort goes a long way and in this case the benefits of making the right lifestyle choices and getting into the right habits can last for a lifetime.”

For more information on how to develop and maintain good oral health, please visit www.dentalhealth.org.


  1. Haydée WT Jordão, Gerry McKenna, Úna C McMenamin, Andrew T Kunzmann, Liam J Murray, Helen G Coleman. The association between self-reported poor oral health and gastrointestinal cancer risk in the UK Biobank: A large prospective cohort study. United European Gastroenterology Journal, 2019; 205064061985804 DOI: 10.1177/2050640619858043
  2. (2019, June 17). Poor oral health linked to a 75% increase in liver cancer risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 19, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190617125124.htm