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Beware, Your Poor Oral Hygiene Can Cause Cancer!

Let us sensitise people on the factor that maintaining a good oral hygiene is a must to stay away from Oral Cancer.

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Did you know that people whose inner cheek, teeth and gums are in poor condition may be more susceptible to mouth and throat Cancers? Well, here is what you should know. Oral Cancer is one the most common cancers in India amongst men (11.28% of all cancers), the fifth most frequently occurring cancer amongst women (4.3% of all cancers). The causes attributed to Oral Cancer is mainly tobacco chewing, Areca nut, Alcohol consumption, and poor oral hygiene (POH) may have contributory effects.  

Most times, we associate poor oral hygiene with dental caries, Gingivitis, Periodontitis (gum disease) and foul smell, but poor oral hygiene in the long run can give rise to fatal diseases including Cancer. A British study has shown that patients with poor oral health index have overall higher mortality rate (they die prematurely) as compared to others. Let’s take a look at frequently asked question related to poor oral hygiene and oral cancer.

WHAT ARE THE FACTORS CAUSING POOR ORAL HYGIENE? There are numerous common factors leading to poor oral hygiene, including tobacco chewing, alcohol, Areca Nut chewing, infrequent dental visits, immunocompromised status, low socio-economic status and lower level of education. Studies have shown that all these factors significantly deteriorate oral hygiene.

HOW DOES POOR ORAL HYGIENE (POH) CAUSE ORAL CANCER? POH is strongly associated with oral cancers. It aids the carcinogenic potential of other known carcinogens, like tobacco and alcohol. It causes easy conversion (faster endogenous nitration) of tobacco metabolite into Cancer causing products (nitrosamines), leading to development of Cancer. POH also reacts with alcohol to form Aldehyde-also a class I carcinogen (Class I carcinogen are the product which can independently cause Cancer).

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT ORAL CANCER BY MAINTAINING GOOD ORAL HYGIENE? One should not consume tobacco or tobacco products which is one of the major causes of Gingival Recession (loss of gums) leading to loosening of teeth and formation of pre-cancerous lesion. Similarly, avoiding alcohol consumption may help maintain good oral hygiene, as evidence shows that an alcohol consumer has higher chances of foul-smelling mouth, more tar burdened teeth, and greater possibility of bleeding gums.

WHICH ARE THE PARTS OF ORAL CAVITY YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR CANCEROUS LESION ASSOCIATED WITH POOR ORAL HYGIENE? Buccal Mucosa (inner cheek mucosa) is the most common site of oral cavity cancer when POH is associated with tobacco chewing habit. When POH is associated with alcohol, then under surface of tongue, floor of mouth is the most common site.

CAN SHARP TOOTH OR ILL-FITTING DENTURE CAUSE ORAL CANCER? Chronic mucosal trauma due to sharp tooth or ill-fitting dentures can cause Oral Cancer. A study conducted by Tata Memorial Centre (Singhavi et al) has concluded that chronic mucosa trauma has higher chances of development of Oral Cancer. It’s not an uncommon finding to have Oral Cancer in non-habitual patients, especially Tongue Cancers. Chronic mucosa trauma and poor oral hygiene are the front runners in such cases.

Evidence that ascertain the link between poor oral hygiene and Oral Cancer: Level 1 (direct causation) evidence to determine poor oral hygiene as primary etiological factor of Oral Cancer is lacking. However, there are studies which have shown that maintaining good hygiene reduces the chances of Oral Cancer by 200%.  Also, there are 93 relevant articles published in the literature until the year 2020 which conclude that poor oral hygiene contributes to Oral Cancer causation, in one way or the other. 

Thus, on the occasion of World Oral Health Day which is observed on March 20th, 2021 let’s pledge to spread the world and educate people on the significance of oral health. Let us sensitise people on the factor that maintaining a good oral hygiene is a must to stay away from Oral Cancer.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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World Health Day 2021 World health Day cancer

Hitesh R Singhavi

Consultant, Head and Neck Surgeon, Fortis Hospital Mulund

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