Brushing away mouth cancer

October 9, 2009


Is it just me or is there anyone out there who likes going to the dentist? If you do, congratulations, and if you are also a regular brusher and flosser you may have a regime that will help you avoid mouth cancer.

This disease is diagnosed in over 5,000 people each year and that is a 40 per cent rise in cases in just 10 years and 1,800 die from the disease each year. On average one death every 5 hours and there are now more deaths from it than cervical or testicular cancer. So it pays to do what you can to avoid it and according to a report in The American Association for Cancer Research’s latest journal those aforementioned good habits could prove vital in combating mouth cancer.

Poor mouth hygiene and less than zealous dental habits can lead to chronic gum disease (periodontitis) and that is a high risk factor for mouth cancer. You get chronic gum disease from a build-up of plaque in the mouth which can result in long-standing inflammation of the gums and eventual loss of your teeth.

Previously mouth cancer has been linked to smoking, but this new study of 463 patients found that gum disease was an equal risk factor leading to cancer whether the subjects smoked or not.

Want to avoid it?

There is some advice so simple I am almost embarrassed to pass it on – but not quite. All you have to do (assuming you don’t already) is to brush twice a day with toothpaste and clean between the teeth with an interdental brush or floss. They recommend using a fluoride toothpaste, but I prefer a natural alternative that does the same job and that is Vicco, an Ayurvedic Toothpaste containing extracts of 20 herbs, roots and barks all valued for their theraputic effects on teeth and gums. Made in Mumbai, you may find it in your local health store or online at

Next, screw up that courage, oh that’s me again, and have regular dental check ups to look for potential problems and have your teeth professionally cleaned to help control gum disease.

Finally, know the risk factors which include alcohol and HPV (human papillomavirus) which is transmitted via oral sex with an infected person. Poor diet is also linked to mouth cancer and evidence shows an increase in fruit and vegetables lowers the risk, as can fish and eggs.

Look for these signs

There are some simple warning signs that you need to be aware of. Every week have a good peer inside your mouth with a mirror and look for any ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches and any unusual changes in the mouth.

See any of these and take action, as the sooner you spot mouth cancer, the better your chances. Early detection improves survival chances from around half of cases to more than 90% and I will remind you again in November as that is Mouth Cancer Action Month.


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