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Can Bad Oral Hygiene Lead to Oral Cancer?

People whose gums and teeth are in poor condition may be more susceptible to an oral virus that could lead to oral cancer. People with poor dental health are more likely to have infections containing HPV (human papillomavirus). The presence of HPV in the mouth could eventually lead to oral cancer. The majority of people with gum disease or other tooth issues test positive for oral HPV. A small proportion of people who rate their dental health as excellent record cases of human papillomavirus. Tarzana Dental Care offers reliable dental services to help you maintain perfect dental health. 

Understanding Oral Cancer

Cancer occurs due to the uncontrolled growth of cells, which invade and damage the surrounding tissue in the body. Oral cancer may occur in any part of the mouth, including the lips, cheeks, the floor of the mouth, sinuses, tongue, and throat. Cancer may appear as a persistent sore or lump that does not fade.  If not diagnosed and treated promptly, oral cancer could turn out to be life-threatening.  Oral cancer is among the several types of cancers that fall under the category of head and neck cancers. The treatment for oral cancer is almost the same as the treatment for other forms of cancer in this category. 

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Symptoms of oral cancer may vary from one individual to the other. However, the typical symptoms for the disease are:

  • Swellings, lumps, or rough spots on the gums, lips, or other areas inside the mouth
  • The presence of unusual red and white patches on the inner side of the mouth
  • Unusual bleeding from the mouth
  • Strange tenderness, numbness, or pain in any area on the mouth, neck, or face
  • Unexplained and persistent sores on the mouth, face, or neck. The cores do not heal within two weeks and also bleed easily upon being touched
  • A persistent feeling of soreness or obstruction as if you have something obstructing your throat
  • Challenged in speaking, chewing, swallowing food, and moving the tongue or the jaw
  • Unexplained sore throat, a change in the voice including hoarseness
  • A noticeable change in the way your dentures or teeth fit together
  • An unexplained weight loss

It is advisable to seek immediate dental care if you experience any unusual dental symptoms.

Bad Oral Hygiene and Oral Cancer 

The oral cavities play major roles in the human body. The oral area is the primary site for human communication and is the entry to the respiratory system and the gastrointestinal tract. Poor oral hygiene could destroy the integrity of the oral cavity and eventually lead to oral cancers.

Studies indicate that there is a strong link between poor oral health and oral cancer. For instance, of all cancers that people suffer from in India, 50% comprises the cancer of the floor of the mouth. However, in the United States, oral cancer accounts for only 5% of all types of cancers. There is a variation in culture in the United States and India, the extensive betel chewing in India is linked to the many cases of oral cancer. The study further revealed that poor oral health could lead to the development of human herpes and human papillomavirus and end up increasing the risk of cancer. 

The National Center for Biotechnology Information conducted a study in India to determine the impact of poor oral health. The study revealed that people with poor dental health had a higher risk of developing oral cancer. The people at the highest risk of oral cancer not only had oral cancer but also were actively involved in tobacco smoking.  This study concluded that observing good oral hygiene could significantly reduce the risk of developing oral cancer. According to the study, good oral health consists of brushing the teeth with toothpaste several times a day. It also entails replacing lost teeth and making regular visits to the dental office. 

Other Studies on Oral Hygiene and Oral Cancer

Of all the new cases of cancers worldwide, oral cancer accounts for 7% of all the cases with around 270,000 new cases of the disease every month. This type of cancer is the fifth most common form of cancers in men and the seventh in women. A study was conducted to establish the association between oral health and hygiene with oral cancer. The study revealed that there was a higher risk of oral cancer among people who experienced frequent gingival bleeding while brushing. The people who reported having not made regular dental visits had a significant risk of cancer than people who made regular visits to the dentist.

The same study revealed that people who brushed their teeth several times a day had a lower risk of oral cancer than people who reported never brushing their teeth.  The results of this study conducted in Brazil were similar to other studies conducted in Germany and Poland. All the studies revealed that people who made frequent dental visits were more careful with their oral hygiene. Seeking regular dental treatment is an indicator of good oral health. Observing consistent oral hygiene helps to minimize the exposure of mucosa to certain carcinogens. 

Other Risk Factors for Oral Health

Oral cancer does not just result from poor oral health. The disease may also develop due to other risk factors. Some of the leading risk factors include smoking. People who smoke are six times more at risk of developing oral cancer than people who do not engage in smoking. Smokeless tobacco users are even at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Smokeless tobacco use may consist of chewing, dipping, or sniffing tobacco. This category of tobacco users is 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer on the gums, cheeks, and lips.

People who engage in excessive consumption of alcohol are also at a higher risk of developing oral cancer than people who do not consume alcohol. Other risk factors include excessive exposure to the sun, mainly at an early age, which may lead to lip cancer. The presence of the HPV virus and a family history of cancer could also lead to oral cancer.  However, it is important to note that 25% of all types of oral cancer occur in people who do not smoke and only drink on a few occasions. 

The Risk of Having Oral HPV

The presence of the HPV virus in the mouth is a leading cause of oral cancer. However, there may not be a clear link between poor oral health and HPV infection. In addition to poor oral health, other factors could increase the odds of HPV infection in the mouth. For instance, smoking and having multiple oral sexual partners could lead to HPV infection.

There are numerous reasons why it is important to take care of your teeth and gums. In general, good oral health is important for your general wellbeing. When the HPV virus invades your mouth during oral sex, for instance, you may not notice it immediately. However, a lingering infection with the virus could lead to oropharyngeal cancer, a type of oral cancer that occurs on the base of the tongue.

A Rise in Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is a rare form of cancer, but cases resulting from an HPV infection in the mouth are constantly increasing. There is no clear explanation of the increase in the cases. Even if smoking and drinking are primary risk factors for HPV and oral cancer development, oral health leads to an increased rate of oropharyngeal cancer.

Unhealthy gums and teeth increase the chances of developing an HPV infection. Diseased gum likely provides an entry point of the virus into the bloodstream. Of all the cases of oral cancers that occur in America every year, HPV causes almost three-quarters of the cases.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Cancer

If oral cancer is diagnosed at an early age, the five-year survival rate stands at 84%. However, with a late diagnosis, when cancer has spread to other areas like the lymph nodes and other nearby tissues, the survival rate is 65%. 

Your dentist can diagnose oral cancer while conducting a routine dental exam.  For instance, the dentist may check the presence of irregular tissues and lumps in the mouth. Your dentist could also look for changes in the face, neck, head, or the oral cavity. Other signs that your dentist could look out for include discolored tissues or sores in the mouth.

If the dentist identifies a suspicious area in the mouth, he/she may recommend a biopsy to determine the cause of the irregularity. There are several forms of biopsies, and your dentist has the right to choose the most appropriate for you. Most dentists avoid using brush biopsy because even if it is easy to conduct, the dentist still has to perform a scalpel biopsy if the results of brush biopsy turn out positive. 

Your dentist could choose from the various forms of scalpel biopsies. The most common include excisional and incisional biopsies. The appropriate biopsy will depend on whether the dentist needs to piece a small area or to examine a larger area to identify the underlying problem.  Sometimes, your dentist may perform a biopsy with a laser.

The treatment for oral cancer is similar to the treatment of other types of cancers. It may involve surgery to remove the cancerous lump. It might also be necessary to perform radiation therapy or drug treatment, commonly known as chemotherapy, to destroy any cancer cells that could be remaining in the body. 

Prevention of Oral Cancer

After understanding the leading causes of oral cancer, it becomes easy to take the necessary precautions to prevent the occurrence of the disease. Some of the strategies that you can adopt to prevent oral cancer include:

Observe Proper Oral Hygiene

It is obvious that poor oral health could lead to oral cancer. Therefore, one of the ways of preventing oral cancer is by observing proper oral hygiene. Ensure that you brush and floss your teeth regularly to prevent the accumulation of plaque and other dirt that could lead to tooth decay. You should also seek treatment for gum disease and other dental conditions. If you happen to lose a tooth or several teeth, it is advisable to seek replacement teeth to fill the gap. Leaving open gaps in the mouth could lead to jawbone loss, which could eventually have a toll on your oral health.

Visiting your Dentist Regularly

Ensure that you visit your dentist regularly. Sometimes, sores and spots in your mouth could be too small to notice on your own. It is important to undergo regular dental examinations. Your dentist can be able to detect abnormal lumps and sores early enough and prevent their progression. According to the American Cancer Society, persons above the age of 20 years should undergo cancer screening every three years. However, persons above 40 years should undergo cancer screening annually. Therefore, the next time you visit your dentist, you may request the dentist to perform an oral exam. Early detection of cancer increases the chance of successful treatment. 

Conduct Monthly Self-Examinations

It is advisable to perform a self-oral exam at least once per month. You will need a mirror and a bright light to conduct the oral examination. Touch your lips and the front part of your gums to feel the texture. To look and feel the texture of the roof of the mouth, you can tilt your head back. Observe the inner side of your cheeks and look out for unusual patches. You could also touch both sides of your neck to feel whether there is the presence of swollen lymph nodes. If you happen to notice unexpected changes and unusual lumps and patches in your mouth, contact your doctor immediately.

Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle 

Changing your behavior could help you prevent oral cancer. First, ensure that you feed on a healthy balanced diet. You should also avoid smoking or using tobacco. If you have to consume alcohol, ensure that you do it in moderation because excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Ensure that you limit your exposure to the sun because it could lead to lip cancer. If you have to go out in the sun, ensure that you use sunscreens and other appropriate sun-protective lotions.

Additional Oral Hygiene Practices

Just brushing your teeth several times a day is not a guarantee of proper oral hygiene. You could still be leaving some gaps if you do not embrace the recommended practices. It is imperative to understand the proper brushing technique and to ensure that you have access to all the right tools. Some of the oral hygiene tips that you need to observe include:

Using the Right Brushing Technique

Quick brushing to remove leftover foods from the surface of your teeth is not enough. The American Dental Association recommends the best brushing technique, which people should follow for the best dental health. When brushing your teeth, you should brush at a 45 degrees angle to your gum using back and forth movements. Ensure that you pass the brush on the inner, outer, and top surfaces of the teeth. While cleaning the backs of the teeth and the front teeth, you should hold the brush vertically. A plaque tends to build up in areas that are hard to reach using a toothbrush.

Take Enough Time

According to the American Dental Association, you should take a minimum of two minutes while brushing your teeth. You should brush at least two times a day. Therefore, the next time you decide to brush your teeth, you should ensure that you do not hastily but take your time.

Pick the Right Brush 

The type of brush you choose will go a long way in determining the level of your oral health. You should go for the right brush with appropriate head and bristles. The head and the bristles should be ample to reach the crevices of your teeth where food particles and plaque often build up. Go for brushes with small to medium-sized heads and bristles.

Use the Right Toothpaste

To get the best out of regular brushing, you have to use the right toothpaste. Go for a fluoride toothpaste because this component is the main player in oral health. Fluoride helps to fight against tooth decay and creates a protective layer on your teeth.  However, this does not mean that all toothpaste, which contains fluoride, is ideal. While choosing a toothpaste, it is advisable to look for a product that bears the American Dental Association's seal of acceptance. This seal implies that the product meets the right manufacturing requirements. This means that you can have faith in toothpaste, knowing that it is safe and effective to use.

Floss and Use a Mouthwash

Ensure that you floss properly to be able to reach the areas between your teeth. Flossing will help to remove dirt that could have remained after brushing. It is also advisable to use a mouthwash, which can reach areas that floss and toothbrushes cannot reach.

Find the Best Dental Care near Me

You cannot achieve perfect oral health without seeking regular dental care. Therefore, you need to identify a reliable dental expert to work with. Tarzana Dental Care is an excellent choice for offering reliable yet affordable dental services for the whole family. Contact us at 818-708-3232 and speak to a dentist.