When you were a child, the importance of brushing and flossing your teeth on a daily basis was probably something you heard often. Almost always the focus was to keep your teeth clean to avoid cavities and the build-up of plaque, but have you ever thought that the effects of bad oral hygiene could lead to something as serious as oral cancer?
Oral Hygiene and Cancer
The American Journal of Epidemiology published a 2007 study linking neglected mouth hygiene, to head, neck and oral cancers. Researchers have found that over 3,400 U.S. adults who ranked their own personal oral hygiene as “poor” to “fair” have a higher chance of acquiring an oral infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that approximately 12,000 cases of oral cancer occur in the U.S. each year. The presence of HPV is thought to cause close to 75 percent of these cases.
Reduce Your Risks of Oral Cancer
Here are some ways to improve your oral hygiene to prevent or reduce the risk of oral cancer.
Make it a habit to brush and floss your teeth after every meal. Participating in both brushing and flossing will remove unwanted plaque and leftover food from your teeth and gums, resulting in less decay.
Avoid or limit the use of tobacco and alcohol products to improve your oral hygiene. Using tobacco products means you have a 27 times greater chance of being diagnosed with oral cancer over an individual who never uses tobacco.
Visit your dentist at least twice a year, and more often if you are at high risk or the dentist recommends more frequent visits. Allowing your dentist frequent access to your mouth gives him or her many opportunities to spot any signs of oral cancer early on. Just like with any cancer, the earlier it is diagnosed the easier it is to treat.
Protect Yourself from Oral Cancer
Poor oral hygiene can lead to cavities, broken teeth, and gum disease, which can contribute to oral cancer. Following these tips can help protect you against oral cancer and all of the stress and worry that comes with this disease.
Students at Roseman University’s College of Dental Medicine recently hosted the second annual Oral Cancer Awareness Run/Walk in Utah to highlight the importance of oral cancer screenings and prevention.
There are about 43,000 new diagnoses for oral or pharyngeal cancer in the U.S. every year, and about 8,000 people will die from these diseases annually. Oral cancer five-year survival rates are only at 57 percent, which is markedly lower than survival rates for diseases like breast cancer (85 percent) or prostate cancer (close to 100 percent). Despite significant advances in cancer treatments and therapies, the five-year survival rate for oral cancer has remained the same for decades because many people do not discover the cancer until very late in the development, when it has metastasized to another area of the body (often the lymph nodes in the neck).
Age – individuals over 40 are at a higher risk of developing this disease.
Smoking or using smokeless tobacco – smokeless tobacco is not a safer alternative to smoking, and both put you at risk for oral cancer.
Excessive alcohol consumption – this risk is increased for individuals who combine heavy alcohol consumption with tobacco use.
Frequent or prolonged exposure to sun without proper protection – this can lead to cancers in the lip area, although these are declining with the increased awareness of the dangers of ultraviolet rays.
Previous diagnosis of oral cancer or other cancers.
In recent years doctors have seen an increase in the number of younger people diagnosed with the disease, and research has revealed it is likely due to human papilloma virus number 16 (HPV16), a disease transmitted through sexual contact. Getting oral cancer from HPV16 is particularly dangerous because it often affects the back of the mouth, such as oropharynx, tonsils, or the back of the tongue, and doesn’t produce some of the same telltale signs of disease (visible lesions, discoloration) that can lead to early diagnosis.
Getting Screened for the Disease
Part of the danger with oral cancer is that there are not a lot of really obvious signs of the disease in its early stages. The best way to lower your risk is to visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups, at the recommended six-month intervals. Dentists can often see some of the early changes in the tissues in your mouth, or even feel the tumor while it is still very small.
Some other signs of oral cancer include a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth, a canker sore that doesn’t heal after more than two weeks, or unexplained and persistent bleeding in the mouth. If you can feel an obvious lump or bump, you have difficulty swallowing, a persistent earache on one side, or hoarseness that doesn’t heal for a long time, it’s a good idea to have these things checked by your dentist. Often the dentist will order a biopsy of suspicious-looking areas to determine for sure whether it is cancer.
Treating Oral Cancer
Treatment for oral cancer may involve a mix of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy depending on the stage at diagnosis. These methods are most effective when you can catch the cancer early.
If you have not been screened recently for oral cancer and you have some warning signs or risk factors, it’s important to see a dentist right away. The Dental Clinic at Roseman University offers an affordable option for dental care if you don’t have a dentist or don’t have dental insurance. Early diagnosis and treatment offer the best chance for survival when it comes to oral cancer.
There are few things that are more important to your health than checking for signs of cancer. With any type of cancer, early detection is crucial. With oral cancer, detecting the signs and symptoms early can be life-saving. There are a few key symptoms to look for when checking for oral cancer.
White or Red Lesions
There are two types of lesions that your need to be on the lookout for. White lesions, also called leukoplakia, and red lesions, sometimes called erythroplakia, are both clear indicators of oral cancer. Red lesions are more likely to be cancerous, but white lesions are more common. If you notice any of these lesions that do not go away within two weeks, consider getting a biopsy to determine if they are cancerous or not.
Lump or Thickening of Oral Soft Tissue
If there are any lumps in or around your mouth or if something is more swollen than it typically should be, notify your doctor. This can be one of the signs that something may be wrong. Any issue like this that lasts longer than two weeks could be a potential indicator for oral cancer.
Difficulty Chewing or Swallowing
If you have any difficulty chewing or swallowing, this could be an indicator for oral cancer. This is one of the many signs that something could be wrong. Other symptoms can include sore throat, ear pain, any difficulty moving your tongue or jaw and numbness. You should be on the lookout for these symptoms regularly, although you will probably notice them right away. If they persist longer than two weeks, make an appointment to address the issue with your doctor.
Early detection of any cancer is paramount to your health. Regularly check for these and any other common or possible signs and symptoms of oral cancer. It’s also important to take steps toward reducing your risk for developing oral cancer. Reducing sun exposure, quitting smoking and eating enough fruits and vegetables are all possible ways to lessen your cancer risk.
Using nicotine comes with so many health risks, from lung cancer to heart disease to harming others with secondhand smoke. According to the American Dental Association, smoking accounts for about 20% of deaths in the United States. It hurts the whole body, but it’s especially dangerous for oral health.
The mouth is the entry spot for nicotine, no matter what form it’s in. Consuming nicotine through smoking, using smokeless tobacco, or vaping restricts blood flow to the gums, which can cause or exacerbate periodontal disease. It can also lead to stained teeth, excessive plaque and tartar buildup, periodontitis (or losing the bone that anchors teeth to the jaw), receding gums, chronic bad breath, gum disease, and tooth loss. In fact, according to the CDC, about 43% of current smokers over the age of 65 have lost all of their teeth.
It doesn’t stop there. Someone who smokes is at ten times the risk of oral cancer than someone who doesn’t smoke. Because the carcinogens and toxins weaken the body’s immune system while warping cell growth, fighting off cancer is harder too.
Using e-cigarettes, or vaping, is sometimes considered safer than smoking cigarettes. That’s a myth. Vaping still brings nicotine into the mouth, body, and bloodstream. It leads to many of the same issues as smoking with an additional one: dry mouth, which can cause mouth ulcers, tooth decay, and bad breath.
Nicotine is an extremely addictive substance. Quitting, or helping someone quit, can be tough – but you don’t have to do it alone. Your dental care provider can be a great resource. If you’re in need of some support, make an appointment with Roseman Dental.
It’s a known fact that smoking and tobacco are bad for overall health. Every time an individual decides to smoke, real damage is being done to the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers in general. It also causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States and causes roughly 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. In addition, smoking is the number one cause of preventable diseases and death in the U.S. Since smoking and tobacco are proven to harm every organ of the body, there should be no surprise that they also are very harmful to oral health.
Oral Health Effects of Tobacco & Smoking
Stained teeth and tongue, bad breath and loss of smell and taste are just the beginning when it comes to a smoker’s oral health problems. The tar in cigarettes stains teeth, discolors the tongue and leads to halitosis, also known as bad breath. These side effects are minimal compared to the more detrimental effects listed below.
Weakened Immune System
Smoking weakens the body’s infection fighters, known as the immune system. This weakening causes the immune system to be compromised. When the immune system is compromised, the body is unable to fight against oral diseases and takes longer to recover from dental surgical procedures, such as tooth extractions.
Gum and Periodontal Disease
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue, can destroy the bone that supports the teeth and cause teeth to loosen or lead to tooth loss. According to the CDC, those that smoke are twice as likely to experience gum disease.
Tooth Decay & Loss
Tooth decay and tooth loss occur with smokers because smoking supports the build-up of plaque and tartar. Also, because smoking causes the immune system to weaken, the body is unable to fight off the build-up of bacteria. The build-up of bacteria, plaque and tartar leads to cavities, decay and tooth loss.
Mouth Sores & Ulcers
Mouth sores and ulcers are common; however, they are more common with individuals that smoke. Ulcers, also known as canker sores, are painful sores that appear on the inside of the mouth and are usually red or yellow.
Those who smoke are known to develop gum disease which in turn causes receding gums. Receding gums is when the gums recede or pull away from the teeth. This in turn causes pockets or gaps to form between the teeth and gum line which makes it easier for disease-causing bacteria to build up.
Cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco contain harmful chemicals that cause mutations in the healthy cells of the mouth and throat, increasing the risk of developing oral cancer. Oral cancer is the most serious side effect of smoking and tobacco use. Oral cancer are cancers that effect the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (the throat). Oral cancer is part of a group of cancers commonly referred to as head and neck cancers, and of all head and neck cancers, they comprise about 85 percent of that category. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, close to 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 9,750 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 54,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years – approximately 57 percent.
World No Tobacco Day – Monday, May 31
World No Tobacco Day is a day focused on informing the public on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiatives in fighting the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations. This year, the theme for World No Tobacco Day is “Commit to Quit.” Commit to quit today and sign the pledge.
There is no better time than the present to commit to stop smoking. When an individual quits, the body begins to heal itself and reverse the side effects of smoking. Oral health and overall health begin to improve.
If you or someone you know wants to quit, but needs help, visit waytoquit.org. Way to Quit provides free and confidential tools to quit nicotine, available 24/7 and proven to help you succeed. Quit online, by phone or text, or create a quit plan customized just for you.
If you do smoke, it is imperative to visit your dentist regularly. Schedule an appointment today with Roseman Dental.