No one wants to think about the “big C” when it comes to their health. Every year, tens of thousands of Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer, and a disturbing percentage of those patients will die from it. Some research indicates that as many as half of those diagnosed with oral cancer will die from the disease. In fact, as one gets older, the chances of developing oral cancer increase significantly. But the fact is, your dentist can help you detect certain kinds of cancers that are particularly deadly – and easy to stop, if caught quickly enough.
Statistically Speaking . . .
Recent research indicates that oral cancer is twice as common in men than women, likely because of the higher incidence of smokeless tobacco usage. Current research also indicates, though, that the Human Papilloma Virus can also cause oral cancer. A whopping 80% or more of cases are diagnosed in people over 50 years old.
The Smoking Connection
Lifestyle and environmental factors definitely make up the majority of the reasons why people develop oral cancer – as much as 90%. This is good news, in some ways, because lifestyle choices and environment can largely be controlled. Smoking is responsible for as much as two thirds of oral cancer cases, but even nonsmokers who are regularly exposed to smoke have a higher rate of developing the disease. For pipe or cigar smokers, the risk runs even higher than the “three times more likely” rate for smokers. Smokeless tobacco users are 15 times more likely to develop the disease. These lifestyle issues are within our control.
The good news is, when caught early, oral cancer has an extremely high survival rate. This makes a regular dental check up, especially as we age, a very critical “must.” Research also indicates that some factors related to dental health also increase the chances for oral cancer. For example, those with periodontal disease are 2.5 times more likely to develop oral cancer, and the rate is 60 times higher for people who are missing six or more teeth. Regular cleanings can help strengthen your mouth’s defenses against developing oral cancer.
Your dentist will check for oral caner by holding your tongue and checking the soft tissue in your mouth. If certain spots on your gum line look suspicious, your dentist will investigate further. Most of us know someone with cancer. Regular visits to your dentist can help ensure you don’t become someone other people know with the issue.
To know more about Oral Health call us, (512) 843-0628!