Posts for tag: oral cancer

By R. Tracy Durrett, D.D.S.
October 30, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral cancer  
ReduceYourRiskofOralCancerWithaHealthyWholeFoodDiet

While genetics certainly plays a role in a person's susceptibility to various forms of cancer (including oral cancer), there are lifestyle factors that also play a role.

In the case of developing oral cancer, there are a number of prominent lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce your risk: protect yourself from too much sun exposure; avoid the use of any type of tobacco (smoke and smokeless); limit your intake of alcoholic beverages to a moderate level; abstain from risky sexual behavior; and eat a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as other whole foods.

That last lifestyle change not only reduces your level of negative exposure from the environment, it may also provide a positive effect as well. For example, normal cellular function produces unstable molecules known as “free radicals” that can damage the DNA structure within the cell; this could be a precursor to the development of cancer. There are natural substances, however, that can help protect cells against the damage caused by free radicals. These are known as “antioxidants” and they are abundant in many plant-based foods. You, of course, may know them by other names: vitamins, carotenoids (found in red and orange fruits and vegetables) or fiber, to name a few.

A well-balanced diet can provide these and other kinds of cancer-fighting nutrients. And, it's important that you eat the source of these nutrients — fresh plant-based foods. Studies have shown that dietary supplements can't match the effectiveness of actually eating fruit and vegetables.

Besides lowering your cancer risk, a plant-based, whole food diet will also result in better oral health. Diets heavy in processed foods with high amounts of sugar or other bacteria-friendly substances inhibit good oral health.

If you would like more information on the role of diet in reducing your risk to cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”

By R. Tracy Durrett, D.D.S.
September 23, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   oral cancer  
StayAlerttoYourOralHealthDuringCancerTreatment

The weapons in the war against cancer are stronger and more effective than ever. But as in real war, those weapons can inflict harm on innocent bystanders — in the case of cancer treatment, other cells in your body. Your mouth in particular may develop side effects from these treatments.

The basic purpose of common cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation is to destroy and inhibit future growth of cancer cells. They're very effective to that end, but they can also destroy healthy cells caught in the “crossfire” with malignant cells or have an adverse effect on the body's immune system and its response to infection. Chemotherapy in particular negatively affects blood cells developing within bone marrow, which leads to lower resistance to infection.

These can have secondary effects on the mouth. Patients undergoing cancer treatment can develop painful ulcers and sores within the mouth cavity, and reduced immunity makes them more susceptible to tooth decay or gum disease (especially if risk factors were present before cancer treatment). Certain treatments may also cause dry mouth in some patients.

If you are being treated for cancer, or about to begin treatment, we can help mitigate these effects on your oral health. The first step is to perform a complete dental examination to identify any issues that may affect or be affected by the cancer treatment. We would then treat those conditions (if possible before cancer treatment begins).

We would also monitor your oral health during the treatment period and treat any complications that arise. Such treatments might include applications of high-potency fluoride to strengthen teeth against decay, anti-bacterial rinses to reduce the risk of bacterial growth, and medications to stimulate saliva if you should encounter dry mouth.

Fighting cancer will be your main priority. You should, however, remain aware of how cancer treatment may affect other aspects of your health. As your dentist, we will partner with you in seeing that your teeth and gums remain as healthy as possible during this process.

If you would like more information on caring for oral health during cancer treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”

August 29, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   oral cancer  
AreYouatRiskforOralCancer

Oral cancer accounts for approximately 3% of cancers in men and 2% in women. That may not sound like a lot, but the disease often isn't detected until it has progressed to its later stages when it's harder to treat and the outlook for survival is significantly diminished.

The main areas where oral carcinomas (cancers) occur are:

  • the tongue (most common location, particularly the sides and underneath)
  • the lip (especially the lower one),
  • the oral cavity (the mouth), and
  • the pharynx (back of mouth and throat).

Risk Factors You Can't Control

Even if you can't change these risks, awareness helps raise your vigilance in order to catch potential problems early when treatment options and positive outcomes are greatest.

  • Heredity
  • Aging — More than 90% of all oral cancers occur in individuals over 40. However, the incidence among younger people has been on the uptick recently, perhaps related to lifestyle behaviors.
  • Race — African Americans have a higher incidence of oral cancer than Caucasians.

Risk Factors You Can Address

  • Smoking and chewing tobacco — Smokers are at five to nine times greater risk and snuff and tobacco chewers at about four times greater risk
  • Alcohol — Moderate to heavy drinkers are at three to nine times greater risk; the higher the alcohol content, the greater the risk
  • Chronic sun exposure — Often connected with lip cancers.
  • Viral infections — Namely the human papilloma virus “HPV 16,” which has been linked to sexual transmission (oral sex) and cervical cancer in women.

One way you can address these risk factors is to have a diet rich in fruits/vegetables, which are high in antioxidants because they been found to have a protective effect against a variety of cancers, including oral.

As part of your routine oral hygiene, you should be closely monitoring any non-healing changes in your mouth (e.g., ulcers or sores, white or red patches on the tongue). And rest assured that as part of your regular check-ups, our office performs a comprehensive visual screening for signs of oral cancer.

If you would like more information about oral cancer prevention and detection, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Oral Cancer” and “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”