Can Poor Oral Hygiene Lead to Oral Cancer?

April 25, 2024

In April, the dental community partnered with the Oral Cancer Foundation to raise awareness about cancers of the lips, mouth, gums, and tongue, collectively known as oral cancers. While there are many genetic and lifestyle factors that can lead a person to develop oral cancer, today we would like to focus on oral hygiene and tobacco use. A 2017 study conducted in India revealed that poor oral hygiene can increase the chances of developing oral cancer, especially among tobacco users. Here is more information from the study and some oral cancer signs and symptoms you should be aware of:

The Link Between Oral Hygiene and Oral Cancer

Although the study did not identify the specific causes, it did identify a connection between poor oral hygiene and increased risk of oral cancers. The study participants were given an oral hygiene score based on their habits, including regular brushing, flossing, use of mouthwash, and regular dental checkups. Those with a low oral hygiene score were found to have a significantly increased risk of developing oral cancers. Among study participants who also used tobacco products – especially chewing tobacco – that risk was increased even more.

It has of course already been established that tobacco use is a significant risk factor in developing oral cancer, but this study has confirmed that, with proper oral hygiene, that risk can be reduced even among tobacco users. This data clearly illustrates the power of a robust oral health routine in reducing oral cancer risk for all people, including those who do not use tobacco at all. It is also worth noting that oral cancer screenings are often conducted during regular dental checkups, so those who visit the dentist more frequently have a higher chance of catching oral cancer symptoms early so that the disease can be treated more effectively.

Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Because the majority of oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, they tend to spread more quickly than other types of cancer. That’s why it is so important to be aware of oral cancer symptoms so you can identify them between dental checkups. If you have any of the following symptoms, it is a good idea to visit the dentist for an oral cancer screening:

  • Sores on the lips, mouth lining, gums, or tongue
  • Rough spots in any of those areas
  • Numbness, pain, or tenderness in the face, neck, or mouth
  • Difficulty with chewing, swallowing, or speaking
  • Persistent earaches
  • An increase in the severity or frequency of bad breath

Because these types of symptoms can be associated with other conditions, it’s easy to miss them, so we encourage you to listen to your body, stay vigilant, and visit the dentist immediately if you think something may be wrong. The earlier oral cancer is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin and the better your chances will be of a successful treatment.

General Dentistry in Chicago, Il

If you live in the Chicago area, the team at American Dental can be your strongest allies in the fight to prevent and diagnose oral cancer. You can start by scheduling your next checkup today! Visit our contact page to find a list of our 8 Chicago area clinics and call (773) 897-3218 or schedule an appointment online with the one that works best for you. We make it easy to find the best dental services in River West Chicago or wherever else you live in Chicagoland!

Oral cancer screenings are painless and can be conducted in just a few minutes during your normal checkup, so ask your dentist if this service is available at your clinic. If not, your dentist can recommend a testing facility. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns and talk to your dentist about any symptoms you may be experiencing. With your help, we can reduce the prevalence of oral cancer in America and save countless lives.

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