Oral and dental health is a lifelong process, with habits picked up in earlier ages. Brushing the teeth twice a day and using dental floss can greatly help at maintaining a good oral hygiene. Periodic oral and dental checks are also quite important in this aspect. However, skipping on periodic checks and not following good hygiene practices may result with serious discomfort and may lead to the development of oral diseases, leading to pain, aches, tooth decay and even oral cancer. Oral cancer may develop on lower and upper lips, inside the mouth, on tonsils, in throat or behind salivary glands, and usually encountered above patients ages over 45, with males being under an increased risk compared to females.
One of the most important steps in treatment of this disease is the early diagnosis. Periodic oral and dental examinations performed by dental practitioners may help diagnose earlier stages of cancer. In cases of early diagnosis or cases of uncertainty, your dental practitioner may consult with or refer you to your maxillofacial surgery specialist for treatment or further examination. Oral cancer, if not detected in earlier stages may spread further and lead to chronic pain, loss of function, irreversible facial and oral deformations or if left untreated long enough, may lead to the patient’s death. Periodic checks and examinations performed by dental practitioners or maxillofacial surgery specialists help decrease the likelihood of oral cancer and help with early diagnosis.
Why Oral Cancer occurs?
The exact mechanisms leading to oral cancer are not entirely understood. However, cancer occurs as a result of constant irritation, meaning uncontrolled cellular growth of a region following constant disturbance. Considering that dense dental plaques and veneers biting into the gum tissue causes constant irritation, the possibility of these factors leading up to oral cancer should be kept In mind. The possibility that nickel and silver based dental materials being constantly dissolving with the acidic saliva and then being absorbed into the bloodstream as a contributing factor to oral cancer is also considered by experts. The use of tobacco, alcohol and some carcinogens contained in certain foods as well as external areas of the mouth being affected by sunlight radiation are some of the factors that are observed to increase the likelihood of cancer. Genetic inclination is also a major factor in determining the risk of oral cancer.
What are the symptoms of Oral Cancer?
- difficulty in tongue and mouth movements
- difficulty in swallowing and chewing
- constant and repeating bleeding in mouth or in throat
- red-ish or white-ish spots appearing inside or around the mouth
- Cracking and distorted voice or the feeling of an object on throat that can’t be swallowed
- sensitive, swollen, sore or thickened areas appearing inside the mouth
- loss of feeling and a feeling of paralysis in mouth or tongue
- Swelling and lesions in lower and upper mandibles and loss of prosthesis compatibility as a result of it.
Aside from all these symptoms, an important point to keep in mind is that oral cancer, especially in early stages, is painless. For this reason, these symptoms may not be considered as serious and may be neglected by the patient. However, cancer may progress gradually, causing damage in healthy cells, which may cause damage in pain receptors gradually with time. The patient may not be aware of the oral cancer currently progressing, by their own. This is one of the reason why periodical checks must be performed by a dentist or maxillofacial surgeon.
Lowering the risk of cancer and Maintaining oral health during treatment
While the exact causes of oral cancer is not completely understood, there are many ways of reducing the risk. Following these steps may greatly reduce the risk of cancer. In case of dental plaques, hidden beneath the gum tissue and dense plaque on the surface must be prevented with dental scaling. For metal supported porcelain bridges, non-nickel metals should be preferred for the metal infrastructures. Due to the risk caused by silver ions on amalgam fillings, high-resistance aesthetic composite filling must be preferred as per doctor discretion. Bio-compatible, eco-friendly toothpaste that doesn’t contain harmful chemicals should be preferred by the patients. Alcohol and tobacco consumption increases the likelihood of oral cancer for up to 15 times, decreasing or preferably completely quitting the consumption of tobacco products and smoking, limiting the alcohol consumption, increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables would greatly decrease the risk of cancer. Limiting or completely stopping the use of unhealthy products is not only important for the oral health, but for the overall human health as well.