Are Patients With Gingivitis at a Higher Risk for Oral Cancer?
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer (oropharyngeal cancer) this year. Of those 54,000, it will cause over 9,750 deaths, killing roughly one person per hour, 24 hours per day.
Oral cancer is known to have such a high mortality rate it is often discovered late in its development — whether due to lack of dental care or mistaken symptoms. In recognition of Oral Cancer Awareness month, learn your risks for this disease.
Types of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer tends to metastasize to another location by the time it is found, causing the prognosis to be significantly worse. That’s why it’s so important to have regular oral cancer screenings.
The main types of oral cancer include:
- Gum cancer
- Lip cancer
- Tongue cancer
- Mouth cancer
The Link Between Cancer and Dental Conditions
Taking preventative care of your overall body has been proven to limit your chances of many types of cancer and conditions. For example, studies also show that treating gum disease reduces symptoms of inflammation in the prostate, effectively reducing PSA levels in the majority of men and preventing prostate cancer.
Oral Cancer and Gum Disease
In the case of oral cancer, many dental conditions play an even more significant role in your health — including gum disease. According to the CDC, 46% of adults aged 30 and older show signs of gum disease, which can turn into periodontal disease if left untreated.
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has determined that the body’s immune response to the spread of bacteria during later stages of gum disease and periodontal disease can increase cancer risk by 14% to 20%. Among patients who had no teeth, which can be a sign of severe periodontitis or past periodontal treatment, the increase in risk was 28 percent.
It’s important to point out that while gum disease or periodontal disease do not cause oral cancer of any kind, having either of these oral conditions could increase your risks. This is what makes regular dentist visits and proper hygiene vital.
Signs of Periodontal Disease
Healthy gums are firm and light pink and white. In contrast, patients may notice dark red, swollen gums as their first signs of a gum issue. Further signs of periodontal disease include:
- Gums that feel tender when touched.
- Gums that bleed when brushed.
- Bad breath.
- Pus between your teeth and gums.
- Loose teeth.
- Pain while chewing.
- Spaces developing between your teeth.
- Receding gum lines.
- Teeth that look longer than normal.
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
Signs of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer and signs of gum disease can often be confused for each other. However, in the case of gum cancer, a patient may experience patches or irregular growths on the gums can be signs of gum cancer. These patches and growths are red and white in color. If you notice these spots, you should see your periodontist as soon as possible.
Oral Cancer Screenings at Progressive Periodontics
The best chance of early oral cancer detection is routine visits with your dentist or periodontist. Dr. Thanik is trained to see possible changes in tissues or actual cancer while still in its earliest stages. He also completes an oral cancer screening at every comprehensive periodontal evaluation.
Being diligent with your preventative care can make a world of difference. At Progressive Periodontics, we can help you monitor your oral health in conjunction with your dentist and, in most cases, can help to catch any changes that may need further evaluation. If you’re in need of an evaluation, give our office a call at (503) 966-3780, and we’ll be happy to get you scheduled for a comprehensive exam and oral cancer screening.
Read More: Connection Between Gum Disease and COVID-19