April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month – Why We Need to Talk About Periodontal Disease More

Statistics from the American Cancer Society estimate that more than 50,000 people in this country will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in 2020 alone. Of that number, approximately 10,750 people are expected to die from it. To lower those numbers, it’s important to know more about oral cancer, especially how periodontal disease may impact the chances of contracting it. As April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at the symptoms of oral cancer and when to seek treatment.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is any cancer that forms in the mouth. This includes the gums, lips, tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, and roof or floor of the mouth. While symptoms of oral cancer can vary, they typically include:

  • A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
  • A white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • A growth or lump inside your mouth
  • Mouth pain or ear pain
  • Difficult or painful swallowing

If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor, as soon as possible. Early detection is important to improve the survival rate of oral cancer.

Do People with Periodontal Disease Have a Greater Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?

There has been more research to indicate that poor dental hygiene and severe periodontal disease can increase a person’s chance of developing oral cancer. Smoking and alcohol have also been associated with an increased risk. Smoking is also known to increase a person’s chance of developing periodontal disease.

Researchers at John Hopkins Medicine studied nearly 7,500 dental patients. After following them for more than ten years, they found a 24% increase in the risk of developing cancer among patients with severe periodontitis. For patients with no teeth, the increase in risk was 28%. Missing teeth can be a sign of severe periodontitis. Periodontitis is caused by a bacterial infection that damages the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth.

What are the Symptoms of Severe Periodontal Disease?

If you are concerned about periodontal disease and suspect that you are developing it, you should get checked by a periodontist as soon as possible. Symptoms of periodontal disease include:

  • Red, swollen or tender gums or pain in your mouth
  • Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Pus between your gums and teeth
  • Mouth sores
  • Persistent bad breath

If you notice your gums are receding or pulling away from your teeth that could also be a cause for concern. Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite or a change in the way partial dentures fit should also be examined.

Seeking Treatment for Periodontal Disease During Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Detecting periodontal disease early is the key to preventing bone loss around the tooth and can prevent the condition from worsening. If you suspect you may be developing gum disease, make an appointment with a periodontist as soon as possible. Dr. Zahavi at Dental Implants & Periodontal Health of Rochester can assess your oral health and advise you about how to treat your gum disease. There are several different treatment options available depending on your specific circumstances. Call us today at 585-685-2005 to schedule your appointment today.

Board Certified Periodontist

Dr. Thomas Zahavi is a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology. He completed his post-graduate periodontal education at the Eastman Dental Center at the University of Rochester in 2006.

Dr. Zahavi obtained his combined DMD and Master’s degree Summa Cum Laude from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1997). He then pursued a speciality program in Prosthodontics (the restoration and replacement of teeth), receiving the highest honors in the residency program (2001). In 2003 he relocated with his family to the USA in pursuit of a residency program in Periodontology at the University of Rochester/ Eastman Institute for Oral Health. He was awarded a Certificate of Excellence from the American Academy of Periodontology Foundation and honored with a research fellowship from a major dental implant company. He is a Board-Certified Periodontist (USA) and Prosthodontist (Israel). His clinical experience and training in the two specialities proves to be invaluable, especially in patients requiring comprehensive periodontal and implant treatments.

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