Staying current with your dental visits is crucial to maintaining a healthy mouth – but there are other lifestyle factors that can cause very serious damage to your teeth. Some damage and oral diseases can be easily treated, while others can progress and become serious – such as oral cancer.
April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month. In an effort to curb the already astounding statistics (see below), My Dentist in Westminster is hoping to spread awareness about the most serious of these health issues and provide some advice when it comes to prevention.
A Serious Issue
Many people think that getting a cavity and/or needing a tooth extraction or dental crown will be the worst of it when it comes to their need for dental intervention. The sad reality is that 1 out of 60 people in the United States will develop oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer, with men being more than twice as likely to be diagnosed. Reading over the list of oral cancer statistics, it is astounding that more people are not aware of the risks and the paths to prevention.
While oral cancer kills at least one person per hour on average, there are other serious dental diseases that may or may not lead to that end. If diagnosed early, people have a greater likelihood of a successful outcome.
Gum Disease and Prevention
Gingivitis. A disease of the gums, Gingivitis can become especially dangerous in pregnant women. When a person neglects their dental hygiene, plaque will begin to build up and irritate the gums. Over time, the gums become increasingly swollen and can bleed easily. This infection starts as a bacterial infection and can become serious if it spreads to the bloodstream. Once in the blood, it can cause pre-term delivery in pregnant women and can lead to more serious diseases, like periodontitis.
To prevent gingivitis, practicing good dental habits like brushing twice per day for two minutes each time and flossing daily is the best way to prevent bacteria build up on the gum line. In addition, risk factors that increase a person’s risk for gingivitis include tobacco use, poor diet, older age, and pregnancy.
Periodontitis. If gingivitis is not treated, it can lead to a much more serious disease known as periodontitis. Once the bacteria infect the gums, the infection can spread to the jaw bone and teeth. This infection has also been known to trigger inflammatory responses throughout your body. It may also cause:
- Gums to shrink or recede
- Teeth to fall out
- Overbites/crossbites due to jaw bone loss
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Bad breath that does not go away
- Chronic dry mouth
To prevent periodontitis, it is important to prevent gingivitis first – so see your dentist regularly, brush and floss daily, avoid tobacco products, eat a healthy and nutrient-dense diet (focus on Vitamin C and Vitamin D), and if pregnant – do not skip your dental visits!
The Best Prevention
The best way to prevent disease, or treat disease in the earliest stages, is to stay on top of your wellness check-ups. This goes for your medical and dental health. We encourage people to schedule an appointment with our skilled dentists at least twice per year for a cleaning, updated set of x-rays, and full exam (including an oral cancer screening). If needed, the dentist may recommend more frequent visits if there is a concern.
Dental diseases can become serious quickly – and sometimes, they go completely unnoticed by the patient until it is too late for total reversal. If you have questions about your risks for oral cancer or other oral diseases, please don’t hesitate to speak with our team. We are committed to your overall health and wellness.