It’s been a while since you’ve been to your dentist for a check-up. Usually you’re good about taking care of your teeth. Lately with your kid’s busy schedules in school and sports, and your own demanding job, you’ve kind of slacked off about your own oral hygiene.
With recent news about health issues being related to oral hygiene, you’ve grown concerned that you’ve increased your own health risks by not taking care of your teeth.
Well, according to research, yes, you may be putting your health at risk. In fact, some studies have suggested that bad oral hygiene habits can lead to major diseases, including oral cancer.
What is Oral Cancer?
Cells in the body can grow, multiply and die. A cancer cell is a cell that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do; it becomes abnormal. Oral cancer is when some cells in the mouth become abnormal, and begin to grow and spread. These abnormal cells attack other healthy cells causing damage to the surrounding tissues.
Scientifically the mouth is called the oral cavity. The oral cavity encompasses the inside and outside of your lips, the inside of your cheeks, your teeth, your gums, the part of your tongue that is in the main part of your mouth, the bottom of your mouth, and the roof of your mouth. Oral cancers in the mouth are generally broken down into three main areas: the lips, inside the mouth, and the tongue.
Oral cancer can also be found in the throat, the area in the back part of the mouth, called the Oropharynx. This type of oral cancer is throat cancer, medically called Oropharyngeal cancer. Throat cancer is generally found in the back of the tongue, back of the roof of the mouth, the tonsils, and the area in the upper throat.
Symptoms and Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Symptoms of oral cancers can often look or feel like other diseases or conditions of the mouth, lips, and throat. The most common symptoms of oral cancer are a sore that doesn’t heal or a lump that doesn’t go away. Some other symptoms that may be signs of oral cancer are unexplained chronic mouth pain and pain in the teeth or jaw, loose teeth, white or red patches in the mouth or throat area, problems with swallowing or chewing, a lump in the neck, or chronic bad breath.
Although there are no known causes for oral cancer, there are several known risk factors. These risk factors can include using tobacco products such as cigarettes or chewing tobacco, excessive alcohol use, a family history of oral cancer, and the HPV virus. Excessive sun exposure is a known risk factor for cancer of the lips.
Study Links Bad Oral Hygiene with Higher Oral Cancer Risk
In a recent case study performed in India, reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the results showed that poor oral hygiene was associated with a much higher risk factor for oral cancer. The group with the highest chance of getting oral cancer was individuals that not only had poor oral hygiene, but were also users of chewing tobacco.
The conclusion of the case study stated that having a good oral hygiene routine significantly helped reduce the risk of getting oral cancer. The outline of good oral hygiene in the case study included brushing teeth several times a day with toothpaste, regular dental check-ups, and having no or only a few missing teeth.
The study also concluded that other risk factors in developing oral cancers were using tobacco products and a poor diet. In addition to good oral hygiene habits, the case study mentioned quitting smoking, not using chewing tobacco, limiting alcohol use, and eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables were the best ways to greatly lower the chance of getting oral cancer.
Dental Visits to Prevent Oral Cancer
Oral cancer can cause significant damage to the teeth, gums, tongue, lips, and throat area. If not treated, oral cancer can also spread to other parts of the body. Professional dental offices, such as Kirkland Family Dentistry in Kirkland Washington, are trained to spot and diagnosis oral cancer.
Regular dental check-ups can help prevent oral cancers. During your dental visit, the trained staff at Kirkland Family dentistry can explain how bad oral hygiene can lead to oral cancer and what steps you can take to begin a healthy oral hygiene routine.