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If you think you’re safe from throat cancer because you don’t smoke, sadly you’re mistaken.

The advice from your mom you   ve been ignoring your whole life is actually key to avoiding cancer

60% of all oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the throat, tonsils and the base of tongue), are linked to an STD known as Human Papillomavirus (HPV), according to the US Centre For Disease Control (CDC).

The majority of us will probably be infected by a strain of the virus at some point in our lives. But following your mom’s advice may prevent it from becoming serious.

People with poor oral health have a 56% higher rate of HPV infection compared to those whose mouths were healthy according to a study by scientists at University of Texas who linked oral hygiene as an independent risk factor in HPV.

A more harmless strain of HPV often induces warts around the genitalia, however this type of HPV is not the same as HPV strains linked to cancers.

You can get vaccinated against HPV and should do so from around 12 years old. Adults can also get an HPV vaccination, but it will not be effective against an HPV strain you may already have. We got an expert’s advice on what you need to do to ensure good oral hygiene, because prevention is better than chemotherapy.

Dr Imraan Hoosen, an award-winning dentist, recommends the following steps to better oral health.

Do It Right
Brushing and flossing correctly are the most important things that you can do to keep your teeth and gums healthy, according to Hoosen. One study back in 2000 seems to indicate that power toothbrushes make a difference and you may consider forking out some cash for a gadget like the OralB Tri-Zone.

As important, is flossing your teeth. One of the most common excuses for not flossing is that people claim to not knowing how. Here’s the steps according to Mayo Clinic.

1. Break off about 45 centimeters of dental floss. Wind most of the floss around the middle finger on one hand, and the rest around the middle finger on the other hand. Grip the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.

2. Take it slow and go through your teeth one by one. Gently guide the floss between your teeth using a rubbing motion. Don’t snap the floss into your gums. When the floss reaches your gumline, curve it against one tooth.

3. Slide the floss into the space between your gum and tooth. Use the floss to gently rub the side of the tooth in an up-and-down motion. Unwind fresh floss as you progress to the rest of your teeth.

Watch What You Eat
Certain foods actually help strengthen your teeth, while others are mortal enemies of oral hygiene.

“People that eat more sugar have significantly higher levels of tooth decay. The foods you choose affect your general health and that of your teeth and gums,” says Hoosen. “Sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks in general have little if any nutritional value and over time they can take a toll on your teeth.

“When bacteria (plaque) come into contact with sugar in the mouth, acid is produced, and it’s the acids that begin to attack the enamel on teeth, starting the decay process. This can eventually result in tooth decay.”

Foods that are high in calcium meanwhile will help boost the strength of your teeth. Smoking is definitley a major no no.

Visit Your Dentist
Pop in at the dentist at least once every two years. You won’t let your car miss too many scheduled services, so why do it with your teeth.