Preventative Dentistry » Mouth Cancer Screening
Mouth cancer is a malignant growth which can occur in any part of the mouth, including the tongue, lips and throat. Mouth cancers have a higher proportion of deaths per number of cases than breast cancer, cervical cancer or skin melanoma. The mortality rate is just over 50%, despite treatment, with about 1,700 deaths per year in the UK. This is because of late detection. Visit your dentist at once if you notice any abnormal problems or are not sure. Regular dental checkups allow early detection of abnormalities in the mouth.
The Mouth Cancer Foundation is a registered charity that raises awareness of mouth cancers and proviedes information and support to patients, carers and health professionals.
Giving Up Smoking
It's not easy... So that's why this web site is here. Giving up smoking requires preparation, determination, and support. This site is here to help you with each of these. If you're thinking about giving up, have a look-in.
Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth LossWhat Is Gum Disease?
Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and can affect the bone structure that supports your teeth. In severe cases, it can make your teeth fall out. Smoking is an important cause of severe gum disease in the United States.1
Gum disease starts with bacteria (germs) on your teeth that get under your gums. If the germs stay on your teeth for too long, layers of plaque (film) and tartar (hardened plaque) develop. This buildup leads to early gum disease, called gingivitis.2
When gum disease gets worse, your gums can pull away from your teeth and form spaces that get infected. This is severe gum disease, also called periodontitis. The bone and tissue that hold your teeth in place can break down, and your teeth may loosen and need to be pulled out .Warning Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease2
How Is Smoking Related to Gum Disease?
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Gums that have pulled away from your teeth.
Smoking weakens your body's infection fighters (your immune system). This makes it harder to fight off a gum infection. Once you have gum damage, smoking also makes it harder for your gums to heal.4,5,6
What does this mean for me if I am a smoker?
- You have twice the risk for gum disease compared with a nonsmoker.1
- The more cigarettes you smoke, the greater your risk for gum disease.5
- The longer you smoke, the greater your risk for gum disease.5
- Treatments for gum disease may not work as well for people who smoke.3
Tobacco use in any form—cigarettes, pipes, and smokeless (spit) tobacco—raises your risk for gum diseases.How Can Gum Disease Be Prevented?
You can help avoid gum disease with good dental habits.3
Oral cancer and alcohol
- Brush your teeth twice a day.
- Floss often to remove plaque.
- See a dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings.
- Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit.
If you drink alcohol regularly, your mouth and throat are often in close contact with alcohol, which is a risk factor for all types of oral cancer.
A 2010 study found that people who had four or more drinks a day had about five times the risk of mouth and pharynx cancers compared to people who never drank or drank only occasionally. However, it also indicated an increased risk for moderate alcohol drinking, which counts as one drink a day.2 Another important study found that when you stop drinking, you can reduce your alcohol-related risk of getting oral cancer by 2% for each year you remain tee-total.3 Limiting the risk of oral cancer is one reason to drink within the UK Chief Medical Officers' low risk drinking guidelines of 14 units per week for both men and women.Oral cancer symptoms
Catching oral cancer early is important because early diagnosis by a dentist or doctor makes it much more likely that you'll make a full recovery. A delay in seeking professional advice is a main factor contributing to the delayed diagnosis of oral cancer and hence potentially worse outcome.4 The main symptoms of oral cancer are:
- red or white lesions inside the mouth perhaps on the side or under the tongue (or in the floor of the mouth)
- a swelling or a single ulcer that has been present for more than two weeks.
If you have an ulcer that isn't painful it's important that you still get it checked by a dentist or doctor. Painful oral cancer symptoms don't develop until the cancer is at a more advanced stage.
Swelling or an ulcer may be the first sign of oral cancer. The earlier it is diagnosed the more likely you'll make a full recovery.5Later symptoms
Later signs of oral cancer can include a numb feeling in the mouth, pain or an ulcer beginning to weep blood. If you experience one or more of those symptoms it's vital to see a dentist or doctor as soon as you can.
The mouth is a part of the body which normally heals quickly so it's very important to get any long-term problems checked by your dentist or doctor.
Your dentist is often best equipped to spot oral cancer warning signs. Not missing your dental check-ups is important, even if you no longer have any of your own teeth. They screen your mouth and can help diagnose mouth or throat cancer before you notice that something is wrong.Alcohol and Smoking
Combining smoking with alcohol increases the risk of getting oral cancer even further.6 Tobacco is highly carcinogenic, and alcohol may make the mouth more absorbent, which allows these carcinogens to enter the body.
Professor Graham Ogden, a mouth cancer specialist, highlights the danger of drinking and smoking by pointing out that: "A pack of cigarettes a day increases your risk of developing oral cancer but smoking a pack a day with drinking consistently above the low risk drinking guidelines for alcohol greatly increases your risk for contracting oral cancer."Other causes of oral cancer
Other than alcohol and smoking there are other risk factors for oral cancer.Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
A risk factor which many people aren't aware of is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is a virus which affects the skin, cervix, anus, mouth and throat and is passed through sexual contact. In most cases the virus doesn't do any harm because your body fights it off but if it remains it can cause health problems.
There are over 100 types of HPV, many are harmless but other types can cause cancer. A recent study found that people infected with HPV were 32 times more likely to develop oral or throat cancers.7
To reduce the risk of HPV infection it's important that you use a condom during sex, including oral and anal sex.Lifestyle
An unhealthy lifestyle and poor diet can put you at greater risk of developing mouth or throat cancer.Preventing oral cancer
There are several things you can do to prevent oral cancer, the best way to reduce risk is to:
- Stop smoking
- Drink within the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines which is 14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women
- Eat a balanced diet, take regular exercise
- Look after your teeth and gums i.e. see your dentist regularly
- Practise safe sex
Practising safe sex and wearing a condom can help prevent HPV and reduce the risk of developing oral cancer. Wearing a condom can't guarantee you'll be fully protected against HPV but it can greatly reduce the risk.
There's also a vaccination offered to all girls aged between 12 and 13 (year eight in schools in England), which will protect them from HPV in the future.8 A school will inform parents when girls are due to be vaccinated. More information about the HPV vaccine is available on the NHS Choices website.
If you'd like to understand more about alcohol units and get advice, tips and motivation to drink within recommended levels.
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