Poor oral health has been reported as a risk factor in the etiology of head and neck cancer. Data on oral health were ascertained as part of two multicenter case-control studies comprising 924 cases and 928 controls in central Europe and 2,286 cases and 1,824 controls in Latin America. Incident cases of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (oral cavity, pharynx, larynx) and esophagus, as well as age (in quinquennia)- and sex frequency-matched controls, were enrolled from 1998 to 2003. Poor condition of the mouth (central Europe: odds ratio (OR) = 2.89, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.74, 4.81; Latin America: OR = 1.89, 95% CI: 1.47, 2.42), lack of toothbrush use (Latin America: OR = 2.36, 95% CI: 1.28, 4.36), and daily mouthwash use (Latin America: OR = 3.40, 95% CI: 1.96, 5.89) emerged as risk factors for head and neck cancer, independent of tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Missing between six and 15 teeth was an independent risk factor for esophageal cancer (central Europe: OR = 2.84, 95% CI: 1.26, 6.41; Latin America: OR = 2.18, 95% CI: 1.04, 4.59). These results indicate that periodontal disease (as indicated by poor condition of the mouth and missing teeth) and daily mouthwash use may be independent causes of cancers of the head, neck, and esophagus.