Fighting Back Against Oral Cancer
ORAL CANCER IS A SUBJECT we’d all prefer not to have to think about, but it’s critical to have a basic understanding of risk factors and symptoms. More than 50,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with oral cancer last year, and that number is expected to rise. That’s why, in honor of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, we’re dedicating a blog post to giving our patients the tools they need for early detection.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
There are several risk factors that increase a person’s chances of developing oral cancer. Some of them are out of our control, such as age and sex. Men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer, and it is far more common in people over 45. But there are plenty of risk factors that we can control, the biggest of which is tobacco. A whopping 85 percent of oral cancer cases are linked to some kind of tobacco use (even e-cigarettes). The next biggest avoidable risk factor is frequent, heavy alcohol consumption.
A few of the less-obvious risk factors include getting too much sun (which can cause lip cancer), HPV, and neglecting your oral hygiene, particularly if you also smoke. You can eliminate this risk factor by brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and scheduling regular dental appointments!
Symptoms To Watch Out For
Unfortunately, even people with none of these risk factors will sometimes develop oral cancer anyway, which is why it’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms, which include:
- A sore in the mouth or on the lip that doesn’t heal
- Red or white patches inside the mouth
- Unusual lump on lip, mouth, neck, or throat, or strange thickness in the cheek
- Persistent sensation of having something stuck in the throat
- Numbness of mouth or tongue
- Difficulty with chewing or swallowing
- Chronic bad breath
If you do have one or more of the risk factors for oral cancer, getting regular general health screenings can catch it before you even notice any symptoms. The earlier oral cancer is caught, the easier it is to beat it.
Where Does The Dentist Fit In?
Another way oral cancer is caught early is at regular dental exams! In addition to checking your teeth for cavities and your gums for signs of gum disease, we can spot many of those early symptoms of oral cancer while we’re looking at your mouth. We use the latest technology with special LED imaging to capture fluorescent intraoral photographs to detect the early signs of Oral Cancer, which is just one more reason why it’s so important to keep scheduling your dental appointments!
We look forward to seeing you soon!
An Eating Disorder’s Impact On Oral Health
THE FOOD WE EAT provides our bodies with the building blocks to maintain healthy cells, tissues, and organs and the energy to work, learn, and do the activities we love. It is crucial that we eat enough food (and preferably the right kinds) in order to keep everything working properly, which is why eating disorders are such a serious threat.
Malnutrition And Overall Health
Eating disorders are a group of psychological disorders that can have a devastating impact on the mental, physical, and emotional health of those who suffer from them. No system in the body is spared, and that includes oral health. That’s why we want to educate our patients on the dangers of eating disorders and encourage anyone suffering from one to seek help, returning to healthy eating habits.
Anorexia: Starving The Oral Tissues
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by extremely restricted food intake, and may also involve purging and compulsive exercising. The main risk to oral health with anorexia is malnutrition. Insufficient nutrients can result in osteoporosis, which weakens the jaw bones, leading to tooth loss. The gums may also bleed easily, and the salivary glands may swell up and produce insufficient saliva, resulting in dry mouth.
Bulimia: Stomach Acid Versus Teeth
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by periods of overeating (binging) followed by forced elimination of food through vomiting or laxatives (purging). Frequent vomiting exposes the teeth to stomach acid on a regular basis, which erodes the protective layer of enamel and can lead to discoloration, decay, and even tooth loss.
Watch this video to see bulimia’s effects on teeth, as well as how dentist’s can help:
Preventing Additional Damage
Maintaining a good dental hygiene regimen is an important part of keeping teeth and oral tissues healthy in any circumstance, but particularly while recovering from an eating disorder. One important caution to take if your teeth have been exposed to acid (whether from acidic food and drink or from regurgitated stomach acid) is to wait thirty minutes to brush. Immediately after acid exposure, tooth enamel is weaker and can be scrubbed away by brushing, so it’s better to rinse with water and wait to brush.
The Road To Recovery
Eating disorders are very serious, and recovery is about getting the right help — from supportive friends and family as well as licensed psychologists. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, a good first step on the road to recovery would be contacting the National Eating Disorders Helpline. The dentist also plays a role in minimizing and repairing the damage from malnutrition and acid erosion, so make sure to schedule an appointment. We are always here to help in any way we can.
Your overall health and wellness are important to us!