Posts for: April, 2019
If there was a quick and painless way to identify pre-cancerous cells in the mouth of someone you loved, would you want them to try it? What if that person were you? The truth is, as uncomfortable as it may be to even think of the word “cancer,” thinking about it, and thus detecting it early, is key. That’s why, if you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, you should schedule a visit, because while the oral exam that accompanies your cleaning may not be noticeable to you, it’s often your earliest line of defense in the detection of oral cancer.
Let's take a quick look at a few of the risk factors and symptoms, and consider a few options you may have to help reduce risk. Keep in mind that no list is exhaustive, and to always share with each of your health care providers your concerns and strategies regarding your oral health.
Those at Risk for Oral Cancer
Passing certain age thresholds and engaging in certain lifestyle habits can place you at increased risk for oral cancer. For example, men tend to have higher rates of oral cancers than women.
Here is the short list:
· Patients age 40 and older (95% of all oral cancer cases)
· Patients age 18-39 who use tobacco, are heavy drinkers, or may have a previously diagnosed oral HPV infection.
If you experience any of the below symptoms lasting more than 7-10 days, please seek the advice of your doctor. Also, keep in mind that aside from an obviously sore throat, the below symptoms can present themselves in the absence of pain. Look out for changes that can be detected on the lips, inside the cheeks, palate, and gum tissue surrounding your teeth and tongue. At Park Crossing Dentistry, we run across such concerns a few times a year, and are able to help patients get treatment early.
• Reddish or whitish patches in the mouth
• A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
• A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
• Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
• Difficulty chewing or swallowing
If you do not visit the dentist regularly, you could be missing out on the benefits of early cancer detection. Currently, just over half of all those diagnosed with oral cancer survive more than five years – a statistic driven by late diagnosis – so please visit your dentist and get an oral exam at least once a year. If you are considered “high risk,” (see list above) you should be receiving an oral exam at least every six months, if not more frequently.
Below is a short list of healthy habits you can start doing now, which may reduce your risk.
• Avoid all tobacco products
• Avoid or reduce your consumption of alcohol
• Consume more fruits and vegetables (good for everything, of course)
• Avoid excessive sun exposure that can result in cancer of the lip (using lip balm with an SPF of at least 30 can be helpful)
• Avoid exposure to environmental hazards (wood dust, formaldehyde, printing chemicals)
• Conduct a self-exam monthly so you can catch any of the symptoms listed above. Use a small hand-held mirror so you can see the back of your mouth and tongue. Our hygienists are great professionals to ask for instructions on this sort of home exam. If you haven’t been in to see us in a while, give us a ring at 704-541-5059, and we’ll tell you how to perform this exam in between visits.
• Consider coffee. While the jury is still out, some research suggests coffee may help protect the mouth from oral cancer.
Oral cancer is serious business. Yet, it can be managed when caught early. So, do the right thing and visit your dentist regularly, and get that screening.
While the current percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes is the lowest it’s been in decades, those who continue the habit remain at risk for heart and lung disease. Additionally, while we know smoking is also bad for our oral health, most don’t understand just how bad it is…
More Than Just Stained Teeth
From its seemingly mild side effects (bad breath, tooth discoloration, buildup of plaque and tartar), to the more sinister (increased risk of oral cancer, loss of bone within the jaw, gum disease and any number of resulting complications) – tobacco is indeed an oral health risk. Tobacco can cause serious health issues by breaking down the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. Because of this breakdown, the use of tobacco makes smokers much more susceptible to infection and diseases. In fact, 90% of people who have cancer of the mouth, throat, or gums admit to using tobacco in some form.
Cigarettes, cigars and pipes aren’t the only culprits; smokeless tobacco can be just as detrimental to oral health, if not worse. In fact, there are twenty-eight chemicals found in chewing tobacco alone that are proven to increase the risk of cancer in the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Chewing tobacco and snuff contain higher levels of nicotine than those found in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Use of these products can expose the root surfaces and ultimately make teeth more susceptible to decay. Signs of smokeless tobacco use that we see in our patients include increased tooth decay in the chew area, changes in soft tissue, and redness with white patchy irritated skin in the cheek area.
Help is Just Next Door
The only way to help eliminate these risks is to never start using tobacco products, or to quit if you do. In fact, simply reducing tobacco use is proven to help lower your risks. If you feel that now is time to reduce your risk of cancer, gum disease, infection and other oral complications, your doctor can help you create a plan to help you quit using tobacco, along with prescribing certain medicines or programs to help you kick the habit. For patients who have quit using tobacco products, our team at Park Crossing Dentistry has noticed great improvements in their oral health, including a decreased rate of decay and dry mouth, less straining of teeth, healthier gum tissue, and fresher breath. Here at Park Crossing Dentistry, the information we have shared with patients has helped make a difference in their lives, while helping protect their health at the same time.
Remember, it is never too late to quit!