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Oral Cancer Goes Undetected

yellow, decaying teeth with a broken front tooth

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, close to 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in a year, and it will kill approximately one person per hour, per day. Of those newly diagnosed, slightly more than one-half will be alive in 5 years. There are several types of oral cancer, but 90% of them are squamous cell carcinomas. People who smoke also have a 30-40% greater chance to get Type 2 Diabetes.

Smokeless tobacco is not a safer alternative. It also contains sugar. During dental treatment, we see the tissue changes in the mouth where the “wad” is kept and related gumline cavities.

Vaping has also become popular. In the journal, Pediatrics, a 2016 study found that teens who used tobacco for vaping were six times more likely to try cigarettes. Parents, do not ignore this statistic.
As of 2017, there was not a comprehensive U.S. program to screen for oral cancers so they are often not detected until the later stages of development when the prognosis is worse. Cancer is very hard to see when down into the throat. It is only logical that dental professionals screen for oral cancer, even when the person has never used tobacco. It is our duty to advise tobacco users of the risks of not only cancer but periodontal (gum and bone) problems that partially stem from tobacco use.

I am aware that some counties across the nation actually have Tobacco Education programs aimed at school-age children and teens. Do a little research for County grants in your area, and contact the American Lung Association. I suggest that you recommend this for your kid’s school, club, or after-school activity. Give them the information that prevents them from starting to use tobacco.