Objective: To determine the association between poor dental health and risk of oral cavity squamous cell cancer (OCSCC) at individual tumor subsites. Study Design: Case-control and cross-sectional. Methods: A case-control study was performed using a population-based cohort in North Carolina (Carolina Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology Study [CHANCE]). A secondary cross-sectional analysis was performed with an institutional cohort (WashU/Siteman). Cases were adults with primary OCSCC and an identifiable tumor subsite. In the CHANCE cohort, controls were adults without head and neck cancer. In the Washington University/Siteman cohort, patients with tongue cancer served as the comparator group. We used number of missing teeth (categorized 0-6, 7-24, 25-28) as a surrogate for poor dental health, which was self-reported in CHANCE and measured on a pretreatment computed tomography scan in the WashU/Siteman study. Adjusted odds ratios (aORs) for missing teeth were estimated for each tumor subsite using binomial logistic regression models. Results: Near complete tooth loss (25-28 teeth) was associated with a 3.5-fold increased risk of alveolar ridge malignancy (aOR: 3.51; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.14-11.01, P =.03) in the CHANCE study. This association was confirmed in our cross-sectional analysis (WashU/Siteman study) where missing 25-28 teeth was associated with an increased risk of alveolar ridge compared to tongue cancer (aOR: 4.60; 95% CI: 1.97-11.10, P =.001). Conclusions: This study suggests an association between poor dental health and risk of alveolar ridge cancer independent of smoking, alcohol use, age, race, and sex. Future prospective and translational studies are needed to confirm this association and elucidate the mechanism of dental disease in alveolar ridge malignancies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1081-1090
Number of pages10
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • alveolar ridge cancer
  • dental disease
  • periodontitis
  • poor dental health


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