Mouth cancer can be life changing or even fatal. But there are things that you can do to help avoid it….
At the Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic, we believe in whole mouth health. This means that not only do we help you to keep your teeth healthy, but also the soft tissues of the mouth too. Whilst the focus is often on gum health, with gum disease being a serious problem that can result in lost teeth, there is a very real threat to all of the soft tissues in the mouth and that is oral, or mouth, cancer.
In the UK each year, it is estimated that there will be around eight thousand new cases of mouth cancer diagnosed each year; a number that appears to be on the increase with around 50% more cases than ten years ago. In addition to these figures, just over 2,500 people are likely to die from it on a yearly basis. Whilst treatment can be effective, especially when detected early, it can also leave the patient with life changing facial disfigurements and problems such as difficulty with speech, or with swallowing their food.
This all sounds very gloomy and, of course, should be taken seriously, but there are certain things that both patients and dentists of our Canterbury dental clinic can do to minimise the risk of suffering from this awful disease.
Three of the biggest factors that contribute to a heightened risk of oral cancer are largely within our own control. Improving our oral health is likely to mean changes to our current lifestyles; changes that might be difficult for some, but will ultimately be worth it for improved health.
Smoking – This is one of the biggest risks not just for oral, but other types of cancer too. Thankfully, less people smoke these days and you will no longer be the odd one out if you don’t smoke. That doesn’t mean that it has died out though and there are still thought to be in the region of seven million smokers in the UK. Unfortunately, some of these will be younger people who may not fully realise the risks that they are taking. This is especially so as they may also be at a higher risk of oral cancer due to other factors.
Alcohol consumption – The odd glass of wine or pint of beer is unlikely to do any significant harm, but readers of our blogs will know that drinking alcohol often causes a dry mouth and a subsequent increased risk of gum disease. Because of a lack of saliva, bacteria that affect the gums and other soft tissue are allowed to thrive instead of being washed away.
Whilst many teenagers are looking to a healthier lifestyle than their parents and grandparents, there are still a significant number who drink to excess, probably too often for their own good. Especially when combined with smoking, this heightens the risk of poor oral health.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) – Whilst oral cancer once used to be linked almost entirely to smoking and alcohol, HPV is now thought to be responsible for around one in every four cases of mouth cancer and every three of throat cancer. Unfortunately it is perhaps not that widely talked about as it is largely transmitted through oral sex. This may explain why it is now the major cause of oral cancer in younger patients who may well be more sexually active and with a number of different partners.
HPV will not give you cancer directly, but causes changes to occur in the cells that it infects which may then lead to them becoming cancerous. To minimise your risk if you are sexually active, you may need to consider reducing your number of partners and practice safe sex. There are also vaccines available, so please ask your GP for advice.
What you can do
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