We are delighted to inform our patients that we are still open as usual. We will continue to treat our patients safely and in accordance with government guidelines. All patients who have appointments booked will still be seen. We are also welcoming and registering new patients to Revitalise Dental Centre.

Mouth Cancer Action Month

Every November, dentists all over the country campaign to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer. Supported by the Oral Health Foundation, Mouth Cancer Action Month is a much-needed campaign now entering its 20th year of raising awareness.

Over the last year alone, 8,337 people within the UK were diagnosed with mouth cancer and is the eleventh most common cancer in the world. This vital campaign helps raise awareness and supports people battling the disease.

Here at Revitalise, all our dental practitioners are trained to detect signs of mouth cancer and do so regularly. In this blog post, we hope to educate you on the symptoms of mouth cancer and what causes it.

What is Mouth Cancer?

Mouth cancer, sometimes referred to as oral cancer, is the growth of a tumour which develops anywhere within the mouth. Areas of your mouth that can be affected include:

  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • Palate (the roof of your mouth)
  • The inside of your cheeks

Although not as common, tumours can also develop in the throat, on the tonsils and the glands which produce saliva.

The most common type of mouth cancer is known as Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Cancers usually begin to develop within the cells that are flat and thin (Squamous Cell). Mouth cancer is a serious illness and, if diagnosed late, can be life-threatening.

What Causes Oral Cancer?

It is not completely understood what causes cells in the mouth to mutate and turn cancerous. However medical experts have identified several circumstances that may impact and increase your chances of developing the disease.

Smoking and Tobacco

Smoking, whether it’s traditional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes or cigars, can drastically increase your risk of developing oral cancer. 1 in 6 mouth cancers are a direct result of smoking.

Smoking not only harms you but those around you. Even if you have never smoked, but are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke, you still have a small risk of developing mouth cancer. The smoke created from tobacco is made up of around 7,000 chemicals, with over 70 of them being known as carcinogens.

Not only can smoking cause cancer, but it also weakens your immune system. This means that your body cannot fight off the cancerous cells and makes it harder for you to recover. Smoking can also cause you to develop other health issues such as heart disease and diabetes later in life.

What can you do to reduce your risk? We understand how difficult it can be to overcome an addiction. However, the only way to reduce your chances of developing symptoms is to quit smoking completely. It has been reported that after stopping smoking for 3-5 years you are 50% less likely to develop oral cancer.

While there are alternatives to smoking tobacco such as chewing tobacco and smokeless tobacco, this does not make them harmless. They still contain the same ingredients that, if consumed regularly in large quantities, can lead you to develop various symptoms.

The NHS has a range of resources available to help your give up for good.

Alcohol

Many people like a drink from time to time, but it should always be in moderation. Excessive drinking puts you at a larger risk of developing mouth cancer, with 1 in 3 cases being linked to it.

Studies have shown that having four or more drinks a day makes you five times more likely to develop cancer than people who never drink or drink only occasionally. Excessive drinking is classified as having over 21 units of alcohol a week, with 14 units of alcohol a week being considered low risk.

Combining excessive drinking with heavy smoking puts you at an even greater risk of developing cancer. It has been suggested that if you drink and smoke, you are 35 times more likely to develop the deadly disease.

Cutting back to the recommended weekly limits can help to not only reduce your chances of developing mouth cancer but also keep your overall general health in good condition. Drink Aware has some great resources to help you cut back on the amount of alcohol you consume, allowing you to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Other Causes

As well as lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking, there are other causes of mouth cancer. HPV, or the Human Papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. It is now also linked to oral cancer. It affects the skin that lines moist areas of the body. While it is most commonly linked to cervical cancer, it can also be spread through oral sex and have an impact on the health of your mouth.

While many people get HPV during their lives and are not affected by it, practising safe sex is the best way to prevent you from contracting the disease and stop it from developing into mouth cancer.

It is common knowledge that over-exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer, but it can also increase the risk of developing lip cancer. Always ensure you wear sun protection when heading out into the sunshine.

What are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

There are several signs and symptoms that you should be on the lookout for. These include:

  • Painful mouth ulcers which do not heal
  • Unexplained lumps in your mouth or throat that do not disappear
  • Unexplained bleeding from the mouth
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Red or white patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue (In most cases, these are not cancerous but should always be checked out by a professional.)

Knowing when to see a medical professional can be tricky as a lot of these symptoms can be related to less serious illnesses and will usually heal within two weeks. If they are persistent, however, you should make an appointment to see either a doctor or dentist.

The earlier symptoms are spotted, diagnosed, and treated, the greater your chances of survival. Early diagnoses can improve survival rates from 50% to 90%.

Book in for a Consultation

Here at Revitalise Dental Centre, all of our general dentistry appointments include a thorough and comprehensive assessment of your entire head, mouth and neck. This allows us to diagnose early symptoms of problems and spot any silent and underlying issues that you may have.

If you feel that there is something wrong or out of the ordinary with your oral health, it is always best to get checked out by a professional. Make an appointment as soon as possible with either your GP or with our dental professionals here at Revitalise Dental Centre.

About the author

Author

Martin Docking is the Founder of Revitalise Dental Centre. Widely recognised as a leading Clinical Dental Technician Martin has a passion for embracing new skills, techniques and materials to deliver the best products, service and patient care.

Connect with Martin Docking on LinkedIn.

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