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Oral Cancer Screenings & 'Stop Smoking' Resolutions

When the clock struck midnight on December 31st 2013, many people announced a list of things they'd change in the new year.  Lose weight, start saving money, make a big career change- they're all high on the list of things people resolve to change.  However, another item is high on resolution lists: stopping smoking.  And with good reason: smoking is the leading cause of oral cancer, among other terrible detriments.

The ADA's consumer site MouthHealthy.org has a section on smoking and tobacco use, valuable information to solidify resolve when making the change to ditch tobacco products. In addition to causing bad breath, smoking and tobacco products impact oral health in the following ways:

  • staining teeth and tongue
  • dulling/deadening sense of smell and taste
  • slowing the healing process after tooth extraction or other surgeries/mouth injuries
  • increased chance of gum disease
  • increased chance of oral cancer

If you're a smoker or tobacco user, you already likely know that you need to quit. Quitting is the only way to decrease your risk of the above oral health problems, as well as other tobacco-related health problems. The addictive quality of nicotine, which is found in cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco, can make this especially difficult. As you move toward quitting, be sure to develop a plan and support network to help you along the way. Some tips to know as you're quitting:

  • Exercise takes you away from environments where people may be smoking, or where you used to smoke.
  • Tell people you're quitting, so they can help you stick to your plan and keep you accountable.
  • Chew gum to keep your mouth busy- the oral mechanics often satisfies the habitual urge to developed when you place a cigarette in your mouth.
  • Speak to a therapist if you feel uncontrollable urges or depression after quitting.
  • Speak to your doctor and your dentist to see if there are medications available that would help you to stop using tobacco.That’s why it’s important to have a plan and a support network, people to help you stick to your plan. Talk to your dentist or doctor to see if the medications available would help you to stop using tobacco.

Bottom line: A smoke-free environment is healthier for you and for those around you. Make a plan to quit, stick to it and start living a healthier life.

The Oral Cancer Foundation notes that “mouth cancer will be newly diagnosed in about 100 new individuals each day in the US alone, and a person dies from oral cancer every hour of every day.” Sadly, the death rate for oral cancers is higher than that of most other types of cancers; only about 57% of oral cancer patients will be alive in five years. Early detection and treatment are critical.

The dentist may use a diagnostic tool called a VELscope to help detect cancerous and pre-cancerous lesions and other growths that might not be apparent to the naked eye. The VELscope is also used to help dentist and oral surgeons determine appropriate surgical margins to cleanly remove all diseased areas.

The VELscope emits a blue light which excites natural fluorophores or chemical compounds in mucosal tissues of the mouth, gums and tongue. The VELscope’s special filters enhancing the contrast between normal and abnormal mucosal tissue, allowing the dentist to pinpoint any problem areas. The VELscope is not used in the treatment of oral cancer.

 

Please contact Southfield Family Dental Center  at (248) 569-630 to schedule your next dental exam – don’t forget to ask about the $35 exam and x-rays.  Be sure to share your complete medical history, including your past and present alcohol and tobacco usage at your next office visit. After all, our patient’s overall health and well-being are as important to us as their winning smiles.

For more information and free resources on how to quit, visit Smokefree.gov.

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