All through April, our team at Kip Dental will be committed to providing extra education when it comes to oral health. This month is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month – and there is a lot of false information out there when it comes to this disease. The first is that it ‘isn’t that serious’ or ‘not very many people have it’. The truth is that 1 out of every 60 people is diagnosed with some form of oral cancer, more than 54,000 Americans were diagnosed with it in 2021, and an average of 1 person dies from this each hour. Oral cancer can begin very subtly with most people never noticing on their own, which is why seeing a dentist is of utmost importance.
Oral cancer can be the end-game and can start from a few different diseases in the mouth. What are these diseases and how can you prevent them? We’re glad you asked.
The first category to discuss is gum disease. While bleeding gums and sensitive teeth can sometimes be normal, it is essential to let a dentist decide when it is okay to ignore or if it is something more. Specifically for pregnant women, many assume that bleeding gums is just a symptom of pregnancy, while in fact it can be a signal of something much more serious.
Gingivitis. This disease is typically caused by poor dental hygiene. As plaque builds up and bacteria crowds the gum line, the gums become irritated and sensitive. This can cause them to bleed while brushing/flossing or look red and inflamed. Gingivitis can be a mild disease, but in pregnant women, the bacteria from gingivitis can end up in the bloodstream and cause pre-term labor. It is important to stay on top of this if you notice any of the symptoms above or if you have the following risk factors:
- Tobacco Use
- Over Age 40
- Poor Diet/Nutrition
Periodontitis. If you ignore gingivitis, or you just don’t notice it, you may develop the serious sibling of the disease – periodontitis. Periodontitis will cause gum bleeding, sensitivity, inflammation, tooth loss, jaw bone deficiencies, and can even trigger an inflammatory response all over your body!
Throat, Tongue, and Cheek Disease
Oral cancer may not always begin in the gums. Your throat, tongue, and cheeks will be the first to signal that something may be awry. The majority of oral cancers begin in the front two-thirds of the tongue, but oropharyngeal cancer (throat cancer) can start in the middle of the tongue and be noticeable all over the mouth.
It is important to note that oral cancers are typically caused by lifestyle factors – such as tobacco use or poor dental habits. The best way to prevent disease is by avoiding or cutting out the risk factors and seeing a dentist regularly.
Get a Professional Diagnosis
We encourage you to schedule an appointment with our dentists at Kip Dental. There are many oral and dental diseases out there that can go missed. If treated early, however, you have a much high chance of a successful outcome.
During a routine visit, which should be every 6 months, your dentist will conduct an exam that includes an oral cancer screening of the neck, throat, and mouth. Staying current with these visits is vital – as is brushing your teeth twice every day, avoiding a bad diet high in sugar, and cutting out tobacco use. If you have questions about your risk factors for oral disease or cancers, please let us know. We’d be happy to talk with you.