Speaking, eating, and smooching — these are all daily activities that draw attention to your lips. You most likely catch a glimpse of them every time you look in the mirror throughout the day, like when you brush your teeth during your morning routine and then again before going to bed. With their high visibility, you might guess that identifying lip cancer in its earliest stages would be common, but you might be surprised at how often early signs go unnoticed.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., and according to the American Dental Association, 41,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral and throat cancers this year. With 60% of the U.S. population visiting the dentist each year, where there mouths are closely examined and oral cancer screenings are done routinely, the dental community is the first line of defense for early detection.
What Is the Difference Between Lip and Oral Cancer?
Lip cancer is one kind of oral cancer. Simply put, cancer is the rapid and uncontrollable growth of invasive cells that damage surrounding tissue. When this occurs on or in the mouth, it is referred to as oral cancer. A notable difference between lip cancer and cancer that occurs inside the mouth and throat is the added risk factor of prolonged exposure to the sun. Lip cancer is often caused by the harmful effects of ultraviolet light, and the lower lip specifically has the greatest risk because it has more exposure to the sun.
While sun exposure increases the likelihood of suffering from lip cancer, there are other factors that increase your risk for oral cancer, most of which are avoidable.
- Tobacco: Tobacco use of any kind increases your chances of getting oral cancer.
- Alcohol: Heavy alcohol use and abuse has been found to be a risk factor.
- Sun exposure: Individuals who have regular, prolonged exposure to the sun are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer of the lips.
- HPV: HPV is tied to the development of cervical cancer and is also a risk factor for oral and oropharyngeal cancers.
- Dentures: Though the connection is debated, some believe that poorly fit dentures that cause long-term irritation of the mouth lining may lead to cancer. It is important that patients who wear dentures have the fit checked regularly, along with a regular oral cancer screening, to minimize their risk.
Signs of Oral Cancer
Cancer of the mouth reveals itself as a growth or sore in the mouth or throat that doesn’t go away with time. Other symptoms include:
- Red or white patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue
- Swelling or thickening of areas inside the mouth
- Unexplained bleeding
- Sores on the face, neck, or mouth that do not heal
- Chronic sore throat
- A change in the way your dentures fit
Though early detection is key to surviving oral cancer, prevention should always be the top priority.
Oral and Lip Cancer Prevention
There are some simple preventive steps you can take to minimize your risk of getting oral cancer:
- Good oral hygiene: Gum disease and tooth decay introduce infections into your mouth. This increases the risk of getting oral cancer. Make sure to brush, floss, and rinse daily.
- Make your routine visits: Your routine visits to the dentist are important. Our providers do more than make sure your teeth are clean; they are skilled at detecting the earliest signs of cancer, and they examine you thoroughly at every visit.
- Don’t engage in high-risk behaviors: Avoid smoking and smokeless tobacco, and minimize your consumption of alcohol.
- Use sun protection: If you are going to be spending time in the sun, use a broad-spectrum lip balm and sunscreen for your face and exposed skin. A broad-rim hat is an excellent choice for extra protection of face and lip areas.
Performing a Self-Examination
While performing a regular self-examination is a must, your own regular self-exam should not take the place of a routine dental visit. You may not be able to adequately see signs and symptoms that your dentist can easily identify.
To perform your at-home self-exam, take the following steps:
- Stick out your tongue as far as you can and examine all sides and the underneath for lumps and discolored patches.
- Use your fingers to feel the inside surface of your cheeks and your lips for bumps or sore areas.
- Inspect the floor of your mouth for lumps as well as white and red patches that shouldn’t be there.
- Inspect the top of your mouth, and then depress your tongue and check your tonsils for abnormal enlargements, redness, symmetry, or bumps.
- Inspect your neck for enlarged lymph nodes or irregular bumps by palpating it with your fingers.
Visiting your dentist for regular examination significantly improves the chances that abnormalities in your mouth will be caught and examined, greatly improving your chances of successful treatment should any abnormalities be cancerous. If you have questions or concerns about oral or lip cancer, call us today. We can provide you with the information you need and schedule a reassuring oral cancer screening for you as well.
Motherhood is both wonderful and challenging. Most women agree that the only way to truly understand what being a mom is like is to become one. Once you have had children, they become your main focus, the purpose behind everything you do…and don’t do.
It’s not uncommon for women to neglect themselves after having a baby. From missing the daily shower to going an extra month or two without a haircut, it’s natural for mothers to reroute all of their resources to their child or children, whether that be time, money, or energy. But could that self-neglect be having a negative affect that extends beyond Mom?
Healthy Mom Equals Healthy Child
According to a study published in the Journal of Dental Research (Jan. 19, 2011)1, moms’ oral health predicts their children’s oral health. This 27-year-long study found that if mothers had poor oral-hygiene practices while their children were young, the children had a higher rate of dental caries and poor overall oral health as adults. The study was conducted in New Zealand and consisted of 835 mothers who participated in a self-rated survey and 1,000 children who were examined at age 5 and then again at 32 (more than 900 examined at this time).
The results were overwhelming. Almost half of the children with mothers who had poor dental health suffered from tooth decay and eventual tooth loss as adults.
Bad News or Good?
Initially, these results may sound like bad news, but they support the belief that when moms take time to care for themselves, they are also taking care of their children — a little relief from guilt for mom.
Oral hygiene and dental care should not be seen as optional for mothers; they are crucial to Mom’s self-esteem and overall health, as well as for the children’s health and well-being.
So what does putting the right amount of time and energy into dental care mean for Mom?
- Making sure to brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Flossing every day
- Minimizing the amount of sugary foods that are consumed
- Scheduling and attending regular checkups and cleanings
Some common oral health conditions can be staved off with good oral-hygiene practices and regular checkups:
Periodontal disease: The best way to avoid gum disease is by sticking to your at-home oral-hygiene routine. Flossing is particularly important. When plaque and tartar remain on teeth, a mild form of periodontal disease can occur, called gingivitis, in which the gums bleed and become red and swollen. Gingivitis is reversible, and it can be treated. However, when left untreated, the gum disease worsens, leading to an advanced form called periodontitis that can cause severe damage to the soft tissue that supports the teeth, resulting in infection and eventual tooth loss.
Oral cancer: According to the American Dental Association, 41,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral and throat cancers this year. Oral or mouth cancer reveals itself as a growth or sore in the mouth or throat that doesn’t go away with time. When you come into our office for your regular checkup, we provide a potentially life-saving oral cancer screening. Our oral cancer screenings consists of a verbal, visual, and physical examination, and they significantly increase your chance of a full recovery should cancer be found. We are your first line of defense for early detection.
Having a healthy mouth and a beautiful smile are key to Mom feeling good about herself. Whether the special mother in your life is yours, someone you know, or you yourself, consider treating her to a teeth-whitening treatment. Sometimes having brighter teeth can give Mom that boost she needs. Feeling good about yourself is important, especially when life gets hard. As your family dentist, we understand that while dark and stained teeth can be healthy, they can also make you look tired, worn down, and older than you really are. Mom deserves better.
Modern-day whitening treatments are fast, effective, and affordable, and they can whiten teeth up to 14 shades brighter. There is no quicker way to make Mom feel as amazing as she is. And remember, when Mom is happy, everyone is happier!
Call today to find out more about how you can help Mom and the whole family stay healthier and happier.
When you think about visiting the dentist, you most likely think about keeping your teeth white and straight, and having an attractive smile. What you may not realize is that maintaining good oral health has value beyond the obvious aesthetic rewards of a beautiful smile. Dedication to maintaining good at-home oral hygiene practices and making regular visits to the dentist protect your overall health and can help you avoid serious health complications and disease.
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
Recent research has linked gum disease to health problems that affect women and men of all ages. Gum disease is a bacterial infection, and as a result, it can enter the bloodstream and cause other health issues:
- Heart disease: Gum disease increases the risk of heart disease and doubles the risk of having a fatal heart attack. Heart disease is the number-one killer of women in America.
- Stroke: Studies have linked gum disease to strokes, with a large percentage of those who have experienced a stroke shown to have been simultaneously suffering from periodontal infections.
- Pregnancy outcomes: Gum disease during pregnancy can increase chances of a premature birth.
While regular visits to the dentist can help you maintain good health and prevent certain diseases, your oral health can tell your dentist a lot about your overall health as well, and it can raise red flags for health conditions that you may be unaware of. These conditions include:
- Oral cancer: Every time you go in to the dentist for a routine checkup, they screen for oral, head, and neck cancers. When it’s caught early, you have a good chance for a full recovery.
- Diabetes: Gum disease can be a sign of diabetes. People with diabetes often suffer from gum disease, as it reduces the body’s resistance to infection, leaving the gums susceptible to disease.
- Osteoporosis: Periodontal bone loss and tooth loss can be a sign of osteoporosis, which causes bone to become weak and brittle. Early diagnosis of osteoporosis can lead to treatments that can help stave off bone loss and keep them, as well as your teeth, strong and healthy.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Studies suggest that when tooth loss occurs before the age of 35, it can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
Knowledge Is Power
So how does knowing the connection between whole health and your dental health help you? Now that you know there is such a strong connection, you understand the importance of having a provider who understands it and uses this knowledge to help you make general health care decisions. It also helps you fully understand the importance of maintaining excellent at-home dental hygiene practices and the best oral hygiene basics:
- Brushing twice daily
- Flossing every day
- Attending two routine dental exams annually, with cleanings
- Regularly using a toothpaste with fluoride and a rinse
- Following a healthy diet that is designed to improve both oral and whole health
To find out what your oral health says about your overall health, schedule an appointment with our provider today.