What do I need to know about mouth cancer?
- Anyone can be affected by mouth cancer, whether they have their own teeth or not.
- Mouth cancers are more common in people over 40years, especially men, but can affect any age or sex
- In the UK, about 7,000 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer every year
- Nearly 2,000 people die every year from mouth cancer in the UK. Early diagnosis is key to survival
- Most cases are linked to tobacco and alcohol; the risks increase if tobacco and alcohol are taken together
- Excessive exposure to sunlight is a risk factor for cancer of the lips
- The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – the virus responsible for warts, is also linked to mouth cancer
- HPV can be spread though oral sex
- Mouth cancer can affect any part of the mouth and may present as a swelling, a painless ulcer, a red or white patch or persistent hoarseness of the voice
- Any ulcer which does not heal within 2 weeks should be checked by your Dentist
- Most cases of mouth cancer can be treated if detected early. Many people with mouth cancer go to their Dentist or Doctor too late
How do I prevent gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by bacteria which pool around the gums. Some types of gum disease are inherited, however this only accounts for a minor percentage in the population. In most cases, gum disease is caused by poor oral hygiene, smoking or poor general health.
Gum disease can be prevented by tooth brushing, regular visits to your dentist and maintaining a good state of general health.
Am I too old for braces?
Crooked or malpositioned teeth affect our ability to clean around them properly and are more predisposed to gum disease and tooth decay. In addition, many people find their confidence in smiling diminished because of this.
Most orthodontic treatment is carried out during the teenage years, but there is no age limit for having your teeth straightened. Acting Icon Faye Dunaway famously had her braces at the age of 61! There are increasingly discreet ways of having teeth straightened using white braces, braces behind the teeth and invisible braces.
Does smoking affect my teeth?
Yes. Smoking increases your chances of early tooth loss due to gum disease by reducing your gums ability to heal. In addition, Nicotine is a cancer-inducing agent and can trigger mouth cancer in addition to other types of cancer.
Also the stains from smoking create a rough surface area for bacteria to attach and multiply and cause unsightly staining.
How long do dental implants last?
Dental implants are titanium roots embedded in the gums to replace missing teeth. Just like natural teeth, dental implants require care and maintenance and can be expected to last as long as a natural tooth given sufficient care.
What is root canal treatment?
Root canal treatment (RCT) is the treatment that is done to save a tooth which would otherwise have been removed. The nerve space in the middle of a tooth is a sterile environment. If germs enter into this space, it becomes contaminated and left untreated, may result in tooth loss.
Root canal treatment is the process of cleaning away the infected nerve and therefore restoring the tooth.
Why do I need to tell you if I’m on any prescription medication?
All drugs have undesirable side effects which may be experienced to a greater or lesser extent by different people. In addition, some drugs interact with each other and such interaction can cancel the action of a drug, or increase its activity to dangerous levels. Some medication can hugely impact what treatment options your Dentist is able to provide.
Knowing which medication you’re on helps your Dentist to avoid any prescription that could potentially interact with anything else that you may be taking. It also helps us to make sense of side effects such as dry mouth, blood blisters, thrush, swollen gums, etc which may be due to a medication you are taking.
Does it matter if I have a tooth taken out?
The bones which support your teeth also support 2/3rds of your face.
When a tooth is lost, the supporting bone in this area diminishes, causing your face to lose support in that area. This is the reason people who have lost a lot of teeth look much older than their natural age.
In addition, teeth don’t like to stand alone and they constantly shuffle towards the middle all through our life. If a tooth is lost early, the teeth behind the gap drift trying to find another tooth to contact. The tooth opposite also drifts for the same reason. Therefore early loss of one tooth can lead to early loss of multiple teeth.
Does stress affect my teeth?
Yes it does. When under stress, many people clench their teeth or grind at night. The effect of this is that teeth can be subjected for forces up to 10 times greater than normal causing crack lines, fractures, sensitivity and tooth wear.
Is it alright to brush my teeth after a meal?
Every time we eat, the acidity of our mouth increases. Brushing right after a meal is an attack on teeth at their most vulnerable period. It’s better to neutralise this acid by rinsing out with a glass of water and waiting a while before brushing.
It’s however safe to floss right after a meal. You don’t want to walk around with that bit of spinach between your teeth.