April 2014

A Comprehensive Review of a Visual and Tactile Oral Cancer Screening
A Comprehensive Review of a Visual and Tactile Oral Cancer Screening

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Dental Professionals Can Make a Difference

According to The Oral Cancer Foundation about 43,250 people in the US will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year.

Oral cancer is both deadly and debilitating; only about half of those diagnosed make the 5 year survival mark. Historically, the main reason for this is that oral cancer is often painless and not diagnosed until it's later stages. Additionally, oral human papillomavirus (HPV) related cancers often occur in the back of the throat or in the tonsil area and may be more difficult to detect.

Oral cancer screenings save lives and take just a few minutes. Unfortunately, data seems to indicate that only about 25% of those visiting their dental practice report having an oral cancer screening. So, not only is important to do the exam, but taking the time to explain what we are doing can heighten awareness with our patients about oral cancer. Watch this short video for a comprehensive review on conducting an oral cancer screening.

Preventing Oral Cancer

Dental professionals are uniquely positioned to help patients reduce their risk for oral cancer.  

According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco and alcohol continue to be the strongest risk factors for oral cancer. Seven in ten patients with oral cancer are heavy drinkers. People who are both heavy drinkers and smokers may have a 100 times greater risk for oral cancer than in those who do not drink or smoke.

Tobacco use is more than just cigarettes. Pipe smoking, cigars and spit tobacco use also increase the risk for oral cancer. Spit tobacco may lead to cigarettes and it is not uncommon for some individuals to use both products. 

Conducting the oral cancer screening provides the perfect opportunity to talk with our patients not just about what we are doing but about the ways they can reduce their risk; namely eliminating or reducing their use of tobacco products and alcohol consumption

What about HPV as a Risk Factor

HPV DNA is found in 2 of 3 oropharyngeal cancers

Research over the last few years has found that the human papillomavirus to be an independent risk factor for oral cancer. It appears that oral cancer from this type of virus is on the rise and is more prevalent in men and younger individuals.

The reasons for the increase are speculative; it may even be passed from person to person via open mouth kissing. While people with an HPV related oral cancer are generally less likely to be a heavy drinker and smoker, smoking has been shown to increase the risk of an oral HPV infection. However, an HPV related oral cancer appears to have a better prognosis than those related to tobacco and alcohol use.

It is not known whether the transmission of HPV can be 100% prevented. At this time, it seem the most important thing we can do is regular oral cancer screenings on everyone and help people understand the underlying risk. 

Inflammation: A Risk Factor for Oral Cancer?

Inflammation: A Risk Factor for Oral Cancer?

Studies suggest that chronic oral inflammation is associated with HPV oral cancer

The CDC estimates that about 1% of people
have an HPV related oral cancer. Even though HPV is a very common infection, in most cases it is cleared from the body within a year causing no residual problems. However, in some people the virus lingers and can lead to cancer; most notably cervical and/or oral cancer.

Emerging evidence indicates one factor that may increase the risk for an HPV oral cancer is chronic oral inflammation. The researchers speculated that mucosal injury from the inflammatory mediators produced by periodontal disease may be a trigger. They also found that chronic periodontitis along with a smoking history made individuals more likely to have an HPV positive tumor.

Help your patients reduce this potential risk factor for oral cancer by helping them achieve good oral health. It may help save their life.

Learn about reducing inflammation with the Water Flosser