Oral Cancers Are On The Rise. Should You Be Concerned?

Epsom dentist, Ravdeep Dhami, looks at the facts behind this recent rise.

We have discussed oral cancers before on our blogs, and explained that  this is something that we check for during your six monthly examinations. Our role here, because we routinely closely examine the oral cavity, is to observe if there are any unusual signs that should be further examined by a doctor.

These symptoms can vary but include red or sore patches, unexplained bumps or lesions and tongue pain, amongst others. In effect, your six monthly dental check at the Clock Tower Dental Clinic in Epsom means not only that your teeth and gums are more likely to remain healthy, but that any potential signs of oral cancers will be spotted early on, helping you to receive any necessary treatment as soon as possible, should it be needed.

On the rise

As with many illnesses, there can be a tendency to dismiss them as things that happen to other people. Unfortunately, sometimes we are those ‘other people’, and, with a new report out recently that indicates that oral cancers are on the rise, we shouldn’t be too blase about this serious issue.

In fact, the report not only says that oral cancers are on the rise but that there has been a sharp increase, which is especially worrying. There are now 8,300 people each year diagnosed with mouth cancer, nearly a 50% increase from ten years ago (and 135% from 20 years ago). With just over 2,700 people dying from this disease last year, and many more suffering life changing problems because of it, it is time that patients take this seriously.

Lack of awareness

One of the things that the report points out is the lack of even a basic understanding of oral cancers and their causes. With the wealth of information now easily available, this is a little surprising, although it may, perhaps, get lost in the ‘information overload’ that many internet users suffer from.

We are always happy to discuss any aspect of your oral health with our Epsom patients, and this means more than just your teeth and gums. In fact, the majority of recent oral cancers have been detected on the tongue and the tonsils. If you have any significant concerns about any issues, you may wish to go directly to your GP, although please don’t do this for routine dental problems; they will simply refer you back to us. If you are worried about anything to do with your mouth though, and are due to have a routine dental examination, please do let us know.

Basic advice for a healthy mouth

As the report indicates a lack of basic understanding of the causes of oral cancers, we feel that this is an appropriate time to reiterate some of the things that we have mentioned previously which may affect your risks of suffering from oral cancer.

Smoking – If there is one thing that you should do to reduce your risks of oral cancers it is to stop smoking.  Aside from the other benefits, including healthy gums, your chances of having oral cancer drops significantly if you don’t smoke. Although everyone should have a six monthly check up, this is even more the case if you smoke.

Alcohol – The occasional drink should be relatively harmless, but if you drink regularly, this is another habit which can cause oral health issues, one of which is oral cancer. If you are a heavy drinker, try to cut down. If you feel that your drinking is out of control and you find it difficult to stop, seek help from professional sources who can guide you to further advice and support groups.

HPV – The human papillomavirus is another increasingly common cause of oral cancers. This is contracted through oral sex, especially where a number of different partners are involved. There are calls for more widespread vaccination against this virus, a call which has been largely supported by the dental profession. At least until such time as the vaccinations are widespread, patients would be well advised to read up further about this virus and how to avoid it. You may find the following a useful source, with further links also available – https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/what-is-hpv/ .

Early treatment

As with most types of diseases, the sooner they are detected, the sooner the treatment can start. In most cases, this will offer the best chance of successful treatment, a treatment that may even save your life.

The best way to ensure that you receive early treatment, where necessary, is to make sure that your mouth is checked on a regular basis. You can do this by having a check up at the Clock Tower Dental Clinic and if you have not seen a dentist for some time, we recommend that you do so as soon as possible. A visit to our Epsom dental practice may save not only your teeth, but, potentially, your life as well.

Dentist Ravdeep Dhami BDS Lond 2007 – GDC 114635