It’s a subject that not many people wish to talk about, but as dental clinicians, we sometimes have to grasp the nettle and tackle things that are difficult.
November– the highlights of which appear to be Bonfire Night and Prince Charles’ birthday, is also Mouth Cancer Action Month.
Everyone needs a dental check-up
At North Street Dental we are always explaining to patients that dental check-ups are essential.
Not only can we check the condition of your teeth, but critically, examine the soft tissues in your mouth for signs of cancer. It’s a normal part of the oral examination all dentists complete before any treatment is started. The disease can affect the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. Catching it early increases the chances of a full recovery.
It’s worth noting that people with false teeth – even those with no natural teeth – should also get regular check-ups. All of our denture clinic patients are encouraged to return for routine examinations of the soft mouth tissues.
Over-40s are most at risk for mouth cancers
Recent data suggests that the disease is most common in people over 40 and particularly men.
Research also points to mouth cancers becoming more common in younger patients. In the last year, 6,767 have been diagnosed with mouth cancer in the UK – an increase of more than a third compared to a decade ago.
More than 1,800 people in the UK lose their life to mouth cancer every year. Many of these deaths could be prevented if cancer had been discovered early on.
These statistics should motivate anyone to get a regular oral check-up with a qualified clinician, and all dentists are trained to spot the early signs of oral cancer.
What causes mouth cancer?
Most cases of mouth cancer are linked to tobacco and alcohol. Cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking are the primary forms of tobacco use in the UK. However, the traditional ethnic habits of chewing tobacco, betel quid, gutkha and paan are particularly dangerous.
Alcohol also increases the risk of mouth cancer, and if tobacco and alcohol are consumed together, the risk is even higher. Over-exposure to sunlight can also increase the risk of cancer of the lips.
Many recent reports have linked mouth cancer to the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer and affects the skin that lines the moist areas of the body. HPV can be spread through oral sex, and research now suggests that it could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the leading causes of mouth cancer. Practising safe sex and limiting the number of partners you have may help reduce your chances of contracting HPV.
What are the signs of mouth cancer?
Appearing in different forms, mouth cancer can affect all parts of the mouth, tongue and lips.
It can appear as a painless mouth ulcer that does not heal normally. A white or red patch in the mouth can also develop into cancer, as can any unusual lumps or swellings.
Be mouth aware and look for changes in the mouth . . . And give our staff here a chance to check you over too.
If mouth cancer is spotted early, the chances of a complete cure are good, and the smaller the area of concern the better the possibility of a good outcome without too much collateral surgery damage.
We know only too well that too many people come forward too late because they do not visit their dentist for regular examinations.
Let North Street Dental check you out
Are you getting the message?
Even if you are a denture wearer and have no native teeth, get checked out by us. All you have to do is book an appointment with us and we’ll check you out.
Blue Lip Selfie Campaign
Like many other practices across the UK, North Street Dental is supporting the Oral Health Foundation and Denplan Blue Lip Selfie Campaign to show our support for the Mouth Cancer Action Month.
The initiative encourages people to wear blue lips as a visible sign of support and take a selfie. It’s hoped the interactive approach will significantly boost awareness of the disease and get everybody talking about mouth cancer, the risk factors involved, the signs and symptoms, and what we can do to help reduce our risk.