It is well known that oral cancer is strongly associated with tobacco and alcohol consumption, together responsible for about 75 percent of oral cancer in the western world. As well, 90 per cent of oral cancers occur in people over 45 years of age.
Dentists can, and do, play a major role in early detection of this fatal disease given the potential to serve as a frontline advocates. Regular dental care can strongly influence the early diagnosis of oral cancer in its infancy.
Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world and is a devastating disease with terrible disfiguring consequences to the individual. Approximately 3,200 new oral cancers and 1,050 deaths from oral cancer are estimated to occur each year in Canada.
Dentists and Dental Hygienists routinely spot signs of cancer including lymphoma, leukaemia, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, skin disease, gastrointestinal problems and heart disease, along with a variety of rare skin and autoimmune disease in its early stage.
The symptoms of lip and oral cancer are:
- A sore on the lip or in the mouth that doesn’t heal;
- A lump on the lip or in the mouth or throat;
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth;
- Unusual bleeding, pain, or numbness in the mouth;
- Pain or difficulty swallowing or chewing;
- Swelling of the jaw;
- Pain in the ear;
- Change in fit of dentures.
A dentist or hygienist will be aware of any changes that are occurring in your body and are reacting in your mouth and – because the mouth is so full of blood vessels and nerve endings – medical conditions can be seen by colour changes, small sores and change in the saliva.
If more people realized the consequences of not taking care of their teeth and gums, they would be calling the dentist tomorrow.
Information provided by Dr. Cam Kesteven, DDS, member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
Published in the Abbotsford & Mission News, October 14, 2006