Oral cancer – the risk factors

Oral cancer is a cancer form which is often overlooked. Nonetheless, this form of cancer is the largest group within the cancers in the head and neck region. It is also a form of cancer which is on the increase. Read more about the risk factors here…

oral cancer mouthOral cancer (cancer located in the mouth, tongue or throat) is a cancer form which is often overlooked. Nonetheless, this form of cancer is the largest group within the cancers in the head and neck region. It is also a form of cancer which is on the increase. Knowledge about the risk factors that might lead to oral cancer is essential in order to prevent and fight this serious disease. This article will list the factors that are most commonly accepted as risk factors for developing oral cancer:

Tobacco

Smoking is a leading risk factor for developing oral cancer. The use of tobacco affects and causes changes in all of the cells that are exposed to the smoke. Both the entire oral cavity, lungs and larynx are therefore at risk of developing cancer.

Smokeless tobacco

Smokeless tobacco in the form of chewing or spit tobacco has in some places been advocated as a low-risk form of tobacco use because it does not cause lung cancer. But when it comes to oral cancer, the risk of developing cancer is not less. To the contrary, smokeless tobacco has been identified as a risk factor in developing oral cancer as well as pancreatic cancer as well as several other oral diseases.

Alcohol

Alcohol abuse (defined as more than 21 standard drinks in one week) is a large risk factor for developing oral cancer. When alcohol abuse is combined with tobacco, the risk of developing oral cancer increases by 15 times. It seems that alcohol and tobacco works together synergistically in the development of cancer, possibly because the alcohol weakens the cells’ natural defense system against the effects of tobacco.

Virus

The human papilloma virus, especially version 16, is a sexually transmitted virus which has recently been proved to be a risk factor for developing oral cancer. It might even be replacing tobacco as the main causative agent for developing oral cancer in patients under the age of 50.

Radiation

Ultraviolet light (e.g. from excessive exposure to sunlight) is a risk factor in the development of lip cancer. With the increase in knowledge of the damaging effects of excessive sunbathing, this form of cancer is on the decrease. X-rays are another source of radiation. The small doses of x-rays used in the dental clinic normally do not pose a risk. It is worth to remember, though, that radiation exposure is accumulative over a lifetime and should not be taken too lightly.

Nutrition

Some studies indicate that a diet low on vegetables and fruit might be a risk factor in developing oral cancer. In contrast a diet rich on fruit and vegetables may offer protection against many types of cancer.

You can read more facts about oral cancer on www.oralcancer.org

X-rays in the dental clinic – why and what?

There are several reasons that a dentist might choose to take one or more x-rays. X-rays are a very helpful tool for your dentist or dental hygienist to ‘see’ things in your mouth that are not visible to the eye. In this article we will introduce three of the most common x-rays taken in the dental clinic: Bite-wings, single x-rays and panoramics

x-ray single pictureThere are several reasons that a dentist might choose to take one or more x-rays. X-rays are a very helpful tool for your dentist or dental hygienist to ‘see’ things in your mouth that are not visible to the eye. In this article we will introduce three of the most common x-rays taken in the dental clinic: Bite-wing x-rays, single x-rays and panoramic x-rays:

Bite-wing x-rays

Bite-wings are the x-rays that you bite on. These are used to see cavities on the surfaces between your teeth, since these are very difficult to see without the use of x-rays. Bite-wings are also used to evaluate your bone structure around the teeth, when there is suspicion of bone loss (periodontitis). Your dentist or dental hygienist will need to take between one and four x-rays to get the information that he/she needs. Normally it is not necessary to take more than one in each side, though.

Single x-rays

Single x-rays are taken to get a picture of a whole tooth including the root and surrounding bone structure. This type of x-ray is the best way to find causes for tooth aches or other abnormalities inside or around a single tooth. If there is suspicion of extensive periodontitis or caries your dentist or dental hygienist might choose to take a whole set of single x-rays to get a picture of every tooth. If there are no symptoms and a normal oral examinations shows no sign of disease, there should be no need for this.

Panoramic x-ray

A panoramic x-ray is a photograph of your whole mouth in one shot. It does not show as many details as a set of single x-rays, so it is only useful to get a general impression of your dental health status and then maybe supplement with a couple of single x-rays. This type of x-ray is especially useful in connection with orthodontics or a very extensive treatment need.