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Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April, 2014


Oral Cancer Facts

-Expected to have approximately 42,000 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed in 2013 alone.

-Males account for almost 70% of all new cases.

Survival Rates of Oral Cancer

1 year – 89% survival

5 year – 56% survival

10 year – 41% survival

-Approximtely 8,000 deaths per year from oral cancer.

Age 0-44 – 9%

Age 45-54 – 20%

Age 55-64 – 29%

Age 65-74 – 21%

Over Age 75 – 21%

Keep The Whole Family Healthy With Regular Oral Cancer Screenings

Risk Factors of Oral Cancer

-Family History of Cancer

-Presence of HPV-16 Virus

Smoking Tobacco – Increases risk by a factor of 6.

-Alcohol Consumption – Increases risk by a factor of 6.

Chewing Tobacco – Increases risk by a factor of 50!

-25% of all new oral cancer cases are patients who never smoke and only drink on occasion (or never). This is where the biggest growth of new oral cancer cases is occurring.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

-White or red patches.

-Long term earache that never seems to go away.


-Tooth Loss

-Sores in mouth that never heal.

-Lumps in head and neck area.

-Numbness of jaw or surrounding tissues.

-Pain upon swallowing.

Early Diagnosis Is The Key To Beating Oral Cancer

The earlier the cancer diagnosis is made and the quicker treatment is begun, the better chance for a successful long term prognosis from oral cancer. Oral cancer will spread very quickly and needs to be found early in its localized state before it progresses to other parts of the head and neck as well as the rest of the body.

The tool of choice in early diagnosis of oral cancer by many dentists is the VELscope. The Velscope uses a special light that can distinguish normal healthy tissue from precancerous and cancerous tissues. The VELscope examination takes about 1-2 minutes (and is non invasive!) and has literally saved thousands of lives. There are currently about 10,000-12,000 VELscopes in the United States alone. Make sure your dentist has a VELscope to ensure you are getting proper dental care for the possibility of oral cancer development.

Here we are in that time of year when coughs, colds, and flu symptoms can make our lives miserable. Most people turn to over the counter medication to either relieve some of their symptoms or lessen their effects. Did you know that these medicines can result in tooth decay?

Ingredients in Medications that Cause Tooth Decay

Many cough drops and liquid medications contain a variety of ingredients that make you and your child more susceptible to tooth decay:

-High Fructose and Corn Syrup. These high sugar ingredients contribute to tooth decay. These are generally sticky sugars which cause your mouth environment to become more acidic and also give the bacteria in your mouth the sugars to break down and attack the enamel of your teeth. When you combine the sticky sugars with dry mouth, high carbs ingested while ill, and decreased oral hygiene you are putting your mouth at high risk for decay.

-Citric Acid. This type of acid can cause tooth enamel to erode and wear down. In addition, the higher acid levels allow bacteria to do their work at a rapid pace.

-Alcohol. The addition of alcohol in some popular cold and cough syrups also has a drying effect on the mouth. Saliva helps to naturally rinse the sugars and acids away from your teeth. With alcohol present it means less saliva will be present, the sugars and acids remain in the mouth even longer, leading to increased risk for tooth decay.

These risks can be magnified if medication is taken just before bedtime. The effect of taking liquid medication before bedtime is not very different from drinking juice or soft drinks right before bedtime. This is because you produce less saliva while you sleep, sugar and acids remain in contact with the teeth longer, increasing your risk for tooth decay.

What to Do?

-Take Medicine at Meal Time. Take liquid medication at meal times instead of bedtime so that more saliva is produced to rinse away the sugars and acids.

-Brush. Try to brush following each incidence of using these medicines. This will remove any excess in your mouth as well as neutralize the acidic environment these medicines can create. Not only will you be doing your teeth some good but you probably will feel better with a cleaner mouth.

-Rinse. This is just as important as brushing in this scenario. Rinsing with water will neutralize the acids as well as “wet” your mouth so it does not dry out as quickly.

Sugar free gum and lozenges. consider chewing sugar free or xylitol gum following taking your medicine or when your mouth feels dry. Choose sugar free lozenges instead of the sugar loaded ones that sit and stay in your mouth for hours on end.

Drink Water. When we are not feeling well, we tend to drink sugary beverages such as juice and carbonated beverages. Drinking plenty of water will neutralize acids, wash away sugar, and help you heal more quickly.

-Choose Pill Form. If it is available, choose a pill form of the medication instead of syrup.


Medication is usually unavoidable when we are sick.  While you are sick, try to avoid inflicting further complications.  Use good judgement and try to maintain your dental health even when not feeling your best. Managing the type of medication you take, when you take it, and how you neutralize the effects,will go a long way to keeping you healthy and happy.

Halitosis is the medical term used to define bad breath. The word halitosis was first introduced to the world in the 1870’s but made popular in the 1920’s by the Listerine company. The correct scientific term for bad breath is oral malodor. Halitosis can be a very embarrassing problem to have. Americans spend approximately $500 million attempting to treat halitosis every year. It’s no surprise then that store shelves are stocked full with gum, mints, mouthwashes and other products designed to counteract bad breath. But many of these products are merely temporary measures and do nothing to treat the condition in the long term. The makers of these products have made a lot of money out of the general population’s desire for fresh breath. These products promise that your breath can be minty fresh. However, it is only temporarily beneficial at best in controlling breath malodors. Actually, many often contain sugar and alcohol, which may lead to tooth decay and may aggravate certain mouth conditions.

The irony of halitosis is that most people have no awareness that they even have halitosis. This is because the cells in the nose that are responsible for the sense of smell actually become unresponsive to the constant flow of bad odor emanating from your mouth. If you have bad breath, you may need to be told, or you may begin to pick up the facial expressions of other people when you’re just too close!

Most halitosis originates from something in your mouth. Food can stick in between your teeth, around the gums and on your tongue. This food will breakdown and combine with bacteria to form plaque.  If not cleaned off properly thru proper brushing and flossing, the plaque will cause a foul smell in your mouth. Plaque and the bacteria which feed off of it can cause periodontal disease (gingivitis and periodontitis). Periodontal disease definitely causes a distinctive type of bad breath we call “perio breath”. Other dental causes of halitosis include ill fitting dentures, yeast infections of the mouth, tooth cavities, and tobacco use. Smoking actually causes your mouth to dry out and creates its own unpleasant mouth odor. Tobacco users are also more likely to have periodontal disease(about 50% of all smokers have some form of periodontal disease).

Halitosis can also be made worse by the types of foods you eat. Many foods may cause bad breath which can include onions, garlic, cheese, certain spices, orange juice and soda. Once these foods become digested, their oils are absorbed into your bloodstream and carried into the lungs. The odor is given off in your breath until all of the food is out of your body. If you eat foods with strong odors, brushing and flossing, even mouthwash simply is a temporary cover up. The odor will linger with you until the foods have passed through your body completely.

Dry mouth or xerostomia can also cause halitosis. Saliva is needed to wet and cleanse the mouth by neutralizing acids produced by plaque and washing away dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. If they are not removed, these cells decompose and can cause bad breath. Dry mouth may be caused by the side effects of various medications (for example, some antidepressants, anti psychotics, antihistamines, decongestants, and medications to reduce high blood pressure), salivary gland problems, snoring, sleep apnea, or continuous breathing through the mouth. A lack of saliva at night deprives the mouth of oxygen, which can promote the spread  of anaerobic germs. This is why most everyone suffers from what’s commonly  referred to as “morning breath”.

The bad odors do not come from the mouth in approximately 10% of the cases. Many other diseases and illnesses may cause halitosis. They include, respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis, chronic sinus infections, postnasal drip, diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and liver or kidney disease. Some of these conditions can have their diagnosis confirmed (along with other medical tests) by the presence of their halitosis. Diseases, such as some cancers and metabolic disorders, can cause a breath odor that is distinctive as a result of the chemicals they produce. Diabetics with uncontrolled glucose levels can have a fruity breath odor from chemicals called ketones. And chronic reflux of stomach acids has also been associated with halitosis.

Treatment and Prevention of Halitosis

Closys Halitosis spray

Closys Halitosis Spray

The most effective way to treat halitosis is thru maintenance of proper oral hygiene along with regular appointments with the dentist. Regular brushing, flossing, rinsing, and scraping of your tongue can also help keep halitosis at bay. There is one product that will not just cover and mask the odor by actually neutralizing the chemicals at the back of your throat. This product is called Closys.

Helpful hints for getting rid of Halitosis:


Halitosis – Tongue Scraper

-Tooth brushing 2-3 times per day. Change tooth brush as recommended.

-Before bedtime, clean your tongue with toothbrush or use a special tongue scraper. This will remove any particles and bacteria lodged in folds of the tongue. A good example of this is the GUM dual action tongue cleaner.

-Use an electric toothbrush, such as the Rotadent, to be more effective in your brushing.

-Keep your nose and sinuses clean.

Halitosis-Stimulate salivary flow by chewing sugarless gum during the day. This will keep the mouth awash with saliva. This can include Trident white among others.

-Drink lots of water daily to keep your mouth wet and to help rinse away odor forming bacteria and food particles.

-Lower coffee and alcohol drinking.

-Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your medications are causing problems of dry mouth that may be leading to bad breath.

-Schedule and maintain regular visits to your dentist.