Oral Cancer And Tobacco

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April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Edgewood Dental Care in Edgewood, KY is helping to bring attention to oral cancer prevention due to some pretty scary statistics.

The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers are:

  • About 49,670 people will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.
  • An estimated 9,700 people will die of these cancers.

As with any form of cancer, early detection is the key to treating it. That’s why the dentists at Edgewood Dental Care make an oral cancer screening part of every routine dental exam.

There are several factors that can increase your risk for developing oral cancer, includingobacco use, alcohol consumption, and your diet. In addition, many experts believe the human papillomavirus (HPV) may overtake tobacco use as the main cause of mouth cancer within the next decade.

Right now, the leading contributor to oral (mouth) cancer is tobacco usage.


The most common reason people develop oropharyngeal cancer is tobacco use. Approximately 90 percent of people with mouth cancer are tobacco users.

Smokers are three times more likely than non-smokers to develop oral cancer. Tobacco smoke, whether it’s from cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, can cause cancer anywhere in the mouth or throat. It can also cause cancer in the voice box, lungs, kidneys, and several other organs. A 2007 report from the Institute of Medicine says that tobacco kills more Americans annually than AIDS, alcohol, heroin, homicides, suicides, car accidents, and fires combined.

Tobacco Smoke

There are thousands of carcinogenic chemicals contained in a single cigarette. When you smoke, your mouth is exposed to all of these chemicals. These chemicals cause genetic changes in cells of the mouth cavity which can then lead to oral cancer developing. Pipe smoking is a particularly significant risk for cancers in the area of the lips that touch the pipe stem.

Even those who have been treated for oral cancer and cured should stop smoking. Continuing to smoke increases their chances of getting a second cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, or lungs.

Smokeless Tobacco And Mouth Cancer

Oral tobacco products (snuff or chewing tobacco) are linked to cancer of

  • The tongue
  • The tonsils and oropharynx
  • The gums, floor of the mouth, and other parts of the mouth

The use of smokeless tobacco products can also cause gum disease, destruction of the bone sockets around teeth, and tooth loss.

Snuff is a finely ground or shredded tobacco. The user places a pinch between the cheek and gum.

Chewing tobacco is available in loose leaf, plug, or twist forms. The user puts a wad of tobacco inside his cheek and then spits out the tobacco juices and saliva that build up in the mouth. Oral cancer occurs a lot more frequently among snuff dippers compared with non-tobacco users. Long-term snuff users increase the risk of cancer by 50 times.

People who stop using tobacco, even after many years of use, can greatly reduce their risk of all smoking related illnesses, including mouth cancer. The best way to avoid these cancers is to never start smoking or chewing tobacco in any form.

Symptoms Of Oral Cancer

When you come in for your routine exam, one of our dentists will do an oral cancer screening. He will look for:

  • white raised bumps, lumps, swelling or discolored spots
  • white, red, or speckled patches in the mouth
  • bleeding that isn’t related to gum disease
  • sores that appear on the face, neck, throat, or lips that last longer than two weeks

You may also be having some symptoms that you should mention to the dentist, like:

  • feeling like something is caught in your throat
  • difficulty swallowing
  • numbness or tingling in your face, neck, or mouth
  • a change in your bite or denture position
  • voice hoarseness
  • pain in your ears that isn’t due to an ear infection

The best way to avoid an oral cancer scare is to stop using tobacco. It’s also important to make sure you come in twice a year for routine dental checkups.

You may find that you’re experiencing some of the symptoms listed above between routine appointments. If so, make plans to come in and us. Call us at 859-474-7830 to set up a time to see us. You can also use our online form to contact us.

Edgewood Dental Care is ready to see you, so don’t hesitate to call us today!

Call Today To Schedule Your Appointment!

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