April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. For this reason, one should take time to go for an oral screening.  But before you book an appointment with one of Advanced Indiana’s dental offices, let’s give you more information. Oral cancer includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx. When not diagnosed early, this could cause death. That is why it is vital to know if you are exposed to its causes and how you can prevent this disease with regular dental visits.

What are the Causes of Oral Cancer?

Oral or oropharyngeal cancer is grouped together with head and neck cancer. These cancer types have similar risk factors. A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting the disease, but having the risk factors doesn’t automatically mean that the person will have the condition.

Here are some of the possible oral cancer causes and signs that you should be mindful of and the proper oral cancer treatment for each form of cancer.

1. Tobacco Use

Smoking causes a lot of different diseases like heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer. Tobacco products such as snuff, dip, spit, chew, and dissolvable tobacco are linked to cheek, gum, and lip cancer. Using it for an extended time would also increase the risk of having these diseases.

Aside from cancer, it could also cause gum disease, destruction of bone sockets around the teeth, and tooth loss. Although there is still no epidemiological evidence that could support that tobacco usage doesn’t only put you at risk but also the people around you (secondhand smokers), everyone should still be aware and careful about it.

When diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer, you must stop smoking or using any smokeless tobacco products. Using tobacco while getting treated can compromise successful treatment and have more side effects from cancer treatments like radiation therapy and chemotherapy. If worse comes to worst, they can also develop second cancer in the mouth, throat, larynx, lungs, and other organs.

2. Heavy Alcohol Intake

For the last 50 years, alcohol consumption, significantly associated with tobacco use, has been an essential risk factor for mouth cancer, causing approximately 75% of upper aerodigestive tract cancers. Alcohol acts as an irritant, especially in the mouth and throat. Cancer cells form when cells damaged by alcohol try to repair themselves, which leads to DNA changes that later evolve into cancerous cells.

The risk of cancer for those who drink and smoke is about 30 times higher than for those who don’t. Amounts of alcohol intake are vital in calculating the risk of developing oral cavity cancer and oropharyngeal cancer; heavy drinkers have a higher risk of developing such diseases than light drinkers.

3. Betel Quid and Gutka

In some regions of the world, especially in Southeast Asia and South Asia, many people chew betel quid, which is composed of betel nut, spices, lime, and other ingredients. Aside from betel quid, many people also chew gutka, a mixture of betel quid and tobacco. Chewing betel quid and gutka is a risk factor for forms of cancer such as oral cavity and pharynx cancer. It could also risk developing potentially malignant disorders that could lead to another cancer or more adverse health effects.

Betel quid chewing can cause cancer because some people hold those quid inside their mouth, between their teeth and cheek for many hours. This would later result in developing white or reddened lesions in the mouth that could progress into forming cancerous cells.

Betel quid is a smokeless tobacco product as addictive as cigarette smoking. The nicotine amount that enters your bloodstream after using smokeless tobacco is often higher than smoking cigarettes. Oral tobacco contains at least 28 carcinogens; one of the most harmful is nitrosamines, commonly known for causing lung cancer. Furthermore, smokeless tobacco juices cause canker sore and white patches in the mouth. Aside from all of the illnesses it could bring, it also affects the whole mouth and causes bad breath, stained teeth, tooth decay, and breakdown of bone in the jaw.

4. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) consists of more than 150 viruses. Infection with certain types of HPV can cause cancer, such as cancer of the penis, cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, mouth, and throat. HPV type 16 is the type most often linked to cancer of the oropharynx, especially those in the tonsil and base of the tongue. HPV DNA (a sign of HPV infection) is found in about 2 out of 3 oropharyngeal cancers and a much smaller portion of oral cavity cancers.

Over the years, the number of cancers due to HIV has risen. It is familiar to younger people who have multiple sex partners. HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer patients tend to have better prognoses than those that do not because chemotherapy and radiation treatments work better for these kinds of cancer, but this is only applicable to those with HPV-related oral cancer who don’t smoke or smoke too much.

5. Genetic Syndromes

If oral cancer is present in your family history, you might have inherited some abnormal cells. This will lead you to a high risk of mouth cancer and even other types of cancer. For example, people in the early stages of Fanconi Anemia would later lead to leukemia. Dyskeratosis Congenita is another genetic syndrome that causes a very high risk of developing head and neck cancer, a group of cancers where oral cancer belongs.

6. Oral Health

Studies have suggested the overall health of the mouth, teeth, and gums may impact oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer risk because of changes in the normal bacteria in the entire mouth. Therefore, you mustn’t miss your dental checkups and visit your dental practitioners regularly. Not only can they screen you for oral cancer, but they can also spot the signs of cancer in the neck, head, and jaw.

Advanced Indiana For All Your Dental Needs

April is the perfect time to check if those rough spots, toothaches, mouth sores, and bumps are just normal dental wear or if you have any of the oral diseases mentioned. It is vital to see cancer during its earliest stages. That is why you should not ignore any mouth cancer signs.

Let oral cancer awareness month be a month of stepping up and getting checked. You should never neglect your oral health! Prioritize your health. Contact Advanced Indiana today, and feel free to ask us any questions! Set up an appointment with us now!

Dental doctor photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com