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You have got to hand it to the tobacco companies…..they are very forthcoming with the fact that smoking can cause cancer……I’m talking about the graphic images on the cigarette packages…Not a pretty sight!
The sad truth is that the risk of oral cancer is much greater if you are a smoker….. In fact, smoking cigarettes or using smokeless tobacco makes you four times as likely to develop oral cancer.
The death rate from oral cancer I.e., tongue, mouth, gums, tonsils and throat is greater than that of cervical cancer.
If we look at some of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer, it may help you to self-diagnose:
1) A tenderness, irritation, burning or sore throat that does not heal.
2) Numbness, pain or tenderness in the mouth and/or lips.
3) A lump or leathery, wrinkled bumpy area in the mouth.
4) Any color changes to the soft tissues (gums/teeth) in the mouth. These can be grey, white or red areas instead of nice pink hues.
5) Difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing.
6) It is hard to move your jaw or tongue.
7) There is a change in which your teeth fit together……your bite is not even.
8) Presence of Leukoplakia: These are white areas on the sides of the mouth caused by tobacco use. They can appear on the tongue or inside of the cheek. This is a pre-cancerous condition.
9) Hairy Tongue: This is also known as Coated Tongue. This consists of a layer of food particles, bacterial and ‘epithelial’ debris which coat the surface of the tongue.
10) Lesions in the mouth (aside from number eight above), which are pre-cancerous.
Please note: As dentists, we are trained to do oral cancer screenings. So you may want to think of getting screened …. Your life depends on it.
Yours in good dental health,
Dr. Robert Axelrad, Brampton Dentist