Mouth Cancer – The Need For Good Oral Health

Oral cancers can kill, but with care they are largely avoidable

Dental check upHave you noticed that when you come to our Chelmsford dental practice for a check up, we don’t only examine your teeth but also take a look at the tongue and cheeks as well?

If you have and wondered why, it is because part of our front line role is in the detection of potential oral cancer symptoms.

These can vary and we are not cancer specialists and so can not diagnose whether this is the cause or not. Because we are in an excellent position to check your mouth regularly though, we are able to spot any unusual signs at an early stage.

If we see something that we can’t explain, such as lesions or lumps, we will refer you to your GP. Patients should not be overly concerned if we do this as it is purely a precautionary measure. In many cases, the symptom will have been caused by something fairly innocuous but if it does prove to be cancerous, the sooner treatment can start, the better.

What causes oral cancer?

There are a number of things which can contribute to mouth cancer but the main ones are the HPV virus which is usually sexually transmitted, and smoking. You can read a news report on the HPV link at Huffington Post.

The most common cause of oral cancer is still smoking, and by stopping this addictive habit, patients of Blue Sky Dental can expect to have a healthier mouth. Quitting smoking might sound easier said than done, but millions of people have stopped smoking over the last few years, spurred on by health and financial concerns, plus of course, the fact that you are now unable to smoke in places where it used to be most common, such as pubs.

Some people will be able to stop smoking with relative ease, but others are likely to find it more difficult due to the addictive nature of nicotine. It is worth seeking out a local support group that you can turn to when temptation arises. It might be hard, but ex smokers will tell you that it really is worth it.

How dangerous is mouth cancer?

Most of us have heard of lung and bowel cancer, but we suspect that fewer of you will have heard of oral cancer in any detail. Despite this, it affects around 8,500 people in the UK each year and accounts for around 1 in 50 diagnosed cancers. This may not seem a particularly high figure but remember that it is probably a much higher rate if non smokers were taken out of the equation.

Most people do recover from oral cancer, especially when it is detected in its early stages. This early detection allows medical treatment to start before the cancer becomes too developed, with 9 out of every 10 oral cancer patients recovering fully following surgery. For others, treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be necessary. Even for those that recover though, some will have ongoing problems such as difficulty in swallowing and with speech.

How to reduce oral cancer risks

By and large, oral cancer is preventable through changes in lifestyle and ensuring that you have regular oral health checks at our Chelmsford dental practice. In order to reduce your risks, we suggest the following.

Stop smoking – It’s as simple as that. Taking this one action will dramatically reduce your risks. It may not be easy but it really will be worth it, and not only for your oral health, but your general health as well.

Drink in moderation – Drinking excessively can have a similar effect to smoking, but if you drink sensibly and stay within the recommended guidelines, any risk should be relatively minimal.

Be safe – If you are sexually active, talk to your doctor about being vaccinated against HPV. They will also be able to offer advice about protection and ways to minimise risks that may arise through sexual activity.

Eat well – Ensure that your diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables to ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy body.

Don’t skip dental appointments – A six monthly check up is necessary to keep your mouth healthy. We also recommend that you see the Blue Sky Dental hygienist to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

As you can see from the above, there is much that you can do to help yourself avoid oral cancer. We have an important role to play as well. Please make sure that you allow us to play our part by keeping regular six monthly appointments with us. If you would like to make an appointment, you can call Blue Sky Dental on 01245 211070.

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