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The Pentino Dental Blog

Preventing and Detecting Oral Cancer

Hello everyone, hopefully you are all starting to get into the Christmas spirit since we are only two weeks away now.  I wanted to make my second posting before the holidays started to get everyone’s lives a little crazy, but I think I would have had to post a couple of months ago.

I just finished reading in interesting article written by Drs. Weinberg and Wang in the Academy of General Dentistry journal, “General Dentistry”.  The doctors presented two case reports about two American presidents, Ulysses S. Grant and Grover Cleveland, who both developed oral cancer.  The article also reports that both presidents enjoyed smoking (especially cigars) and using chew tobacco.  So with this article in mind, I’ll briefly address oral cancers in my second blog posting.

I have recently had several wives and mothers call the office to let me know that they wished that I talk with their husband, boyfriend, and/or son about their use of chew tobacco and see if I would be able to help their loved one quit using.  I would first like to thank these women for taking a proactive approach in their loved one’s health.  I also am very glad to see that more people are really paying attention to the health concerns that cigarettes, alcohol, and chew tobacco play in not only our overall health but specifically our oral health.

In fact those people who have developed laryngeal or oral cancers have an incidence of using chewing tobacco (77%), smoking (42%), and alcohol intake (10%).   Additionally, new research is showing that the human papillomavirus (HPV) may also be a contributing factor in the development of oral cancer especially when the person is also using tobacco products or alcohol.  One study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 72 of 100 people with oropharyngeal cancer had the HPV-16 virus present, and be a cofactor in the development of these types of cancers.  Hopefully in the future advancements in vaccines will enable us to greatly reduce the risks developing oral cancers in the future.

All of this being said I do want to reassure all of my patients that every time you may come into the office for “just a cleaning”  Jessica, Monica , and I are always inspecting your entire mouth and throat to see if you have any tissues that do not appear healthy.  However, I would also encourage everyone to personally inspect their own gums, tongue, cheeks, and roof of their mouth every so often.  If you notice any areas that are white, bleed easily, enlarged, have dark discolorations, ulcerated, or appears different than adjacent gum tissue (even if it does not hurt) always bring it to the attention of your dentist, staff, or physician.

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