Can Poor Dental Hygiene Cause Cancer?

Can Poor Dental Hygiene Cause Cancer?

Can Poor Dental Hygiene Cause Cancer?

Poor dental hygiene can cause many health conditions, both minor and major, so it’s always a good idea to maintain good oral hygiene. But beyond brushing your teeth, you should also have regular check-ups with your dental hygienist and book any necessary procedures with your dentist to ensure you don’t have any potentially serious oral health problems that need to be dealt with quickly.

Scaremongering is the last thing we want to do, but many people don’t realise the importance of our oral health to our overall well-being. So rather than worry or self-diagnose, it’s essential you visit your dentist as soon as any issue arises as well as have twice-yearly dental hygiene appointments.

Mouth cancers are much more common in smokers and people who use chewing tobacco and similar products, but there are links to other aspects of our lives, that mean we should take more preventative measures to reduce our risk of developing oral cancers.

Let’s look into what the risk factors are and what we can do to reduce them.

Risks of Poor Dental Hygiene

Risks of Poor Dental Hygiene

Most of us know someone with poor dental hygiene, whether it’s having brown or missing teeth, or simply having offensive breath, but as well as there being these relatively minor consequences of poor dental hygiene, there are some serious illnesses that can be directly linked to not sufficiently maintaining oral health.

Poor dental hygiene in serious cases can cause:

  • Gum disease
  • Heart disease
  • Strokes

By not keeping our teeth and mouths clean, we allow bacteria to grow and spread in our mouths, which can cause infections. If mouth infections go untreated, it can cause inflammation of our glands which are trying to fight the infection by producing white blood cells, which is uncomfortable and can lead to symptoms such as fevers and fatigue. But more significantly, the infection can spread through the body’s blood vessels, which can lead to serious problems due to the proximity of the mouth to both the brain and heart.

This can put a serious strain on our blood vessels as well as infect the valves of the heart, and the blood vessels reaching the brain. If you suspect you have an infection in your mouth or it’s been over a year since you last visited the dentist, you should make an appointment as soon as possible.

Can Poor Dental Hygiene Cause Cancer?

There isn’t sufficient scientific evidence to clearly state that poor dental hygiene causes cancer, however, small studies undertaken in India and South East Asia do appear to show a link between poor oral hygiene and cancers of the mouth and oropharynx. One factor that may misrepresent the data is that of those in the test group with poor oral hygiene, a significant portion were smokers or people who chewed tobacco products.

However, the lack of research into the topic doesn’t mean that there isn’t a link between poor oral hygiene and oral cancers, so, as there is nothing to lose and many improvements to gain, it’s better to err on the side of caution and maintain good dental hygiene

Causes of Oral Cancers

Causes of Oral Cancers

Mouth cancers can occur in the gums, tongue, inside of the cheek, roof of the mouth, lips and back of the throat known as the oropharynx which includes the tonsils and back of the tongue. So, due to the diversity of the locations, there are multiple possible causes of oral cancer.

Risk factors of oral cancer include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Having a weak immune system due to a medical condition or medicine
  • Having previously had cancer
  • Having leukoplakia (white patches on the tongue)
  • Excessive sunlight exposure (especially to the lips)
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Having an oral HPV infection

The instances of oral cancer diagnoses increase with age, with most people being diagnosed between 66 and 70 years old, although it’s possible to develop mouth cancer at any age. If you feel you are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer, you should have more regular appointments with your dentist to monitor your oral health and be aware of any changes or new symptoms.

Symptoms of Oral Cancers

Some of the symptoms of oral cancers can look very similar to symptoms of other conditions, however, if you have any symptoms that don’t go away after a week, you should make an appointment with your dentist or GP to undergo some medical testing.

It may not be cancer, but as 1 in 55 men and 1 in 108 women will have a mouth cancer diagnosis in their lives, it’s better to get checked and spot any symptoms early to increase your chances of successful treatment.

Mouth cancer symptoms can include:

  • A persistent mouth ulcer
  • Red or white patches inside your mouth
  • A lump inside your mouth or on your lip
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A lump in your neck or throat
  • Losing weight without trying
  • A hoarse voice

If you have any of these symptoms, you should visit your GP or dentist as soon as possible. Both doctors and dentists can detect mouth cancer and will refer you on to a specialist if they suspect you have one.

Preventing Mouth Cancers

Preventing Mouth Cancers

The best way to prevent cancer of any kind is to avoid or stop smoking or using tobacco products, and not drink alcohol to excess. The NHS advises against regularly drinking 14 units or more each week, which is the equivalent to 6 pints of beer or one and a half bottles of wine. Your GP and NHS online services can offer advice to help you stop smoking or cut down your alcohol intake.

Another helpful way to prevent developing cancers of the mouth is to maintain good oral hygiene. That means brushing your teeth twice a day (as soon as you wake up and before you go to bed), flossing and rinsing your mouth with mouthwash daily. This helps kill any bacteria in your mouth that may cause cavities, tooth decay and mouth infections which may raise the likelihood of developing oral cancer as well as increasing your chances of other serious health conditions like heart disease and stroke.

The studies into the link between oral hygiene and oral cancer, also suggest that people should consume a healthy diet made up of plenty of fruit and vegetables which, like maintaining good dental hygiene, will have numerous benefits for your general health and well-being.

If you smoke or drink a lot of alcohol, have previously had cancer or have a suppressed immune system, you are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer, so you should visit your dentist for a checkup approximately every 3 months so they can ensure there’s nothing untoward in your mouth. Even if you’re not at high risk, it’s still possible to develop oral cancer, so you should see your dentist or dental hygienist every 6 months to stay on top of your dental hygiene and have a specialist check for any other symptoms.

Need an Emergency Dentist in Manchester?

Need an Emergency Dentist in Manchester?

Didsbury Dental Practice is a 24-hour private dental practice located in Manchester in the UK and provides numerous dental treatments, from tooth extraction to cosmetic teeth whitening, which isn’t available on the NHS. We also provide emergency dental treatment 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so even if you’re not registered with us, we’ve got your back if anything happens to your teeth.

Book Your Dental Hygiene Appointment Now

Whether you have a dental emergency or simply require a checkup, Didsbury Dental Practice is there to help! Open from 9 am to 12 midnight every day of the year for routine appointments and 24 hours a day for emergency dental care, we can treat anyone in the Manchester area who needs it.

What are you waiting for? Book your dental appointment today!

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