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Oral Cancer - Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis

SumiDr. Sumedha Nandhakumar

Oral cancer

n India , tobacco use is very common . Tobacco is known as major contributing factor for oral cancer. Chewing tobacco is high

among rural areas and teenagers nowadays.  India has a high incidence of oral cancer, about 35% of all cancers are associated

with tobacco use.

The harmful effects do not end with those who chew tobacco, there is a risk of many chronic health problems associated with smoking.

It is potentially dangerous for even children causing increased risk of respiratory diseases, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome.

In pregnant ladies, it will end up as still birth babies or with birth defects like cleft lip & palate, club foot & heart diseases. 

Non smokers are also affected by passive smoking. 

Tobacco & General health

Tobacco is tremendously harmful , no matter how it is consumed it has enormous effect on general health.

Tobacco & Oral health

1) Dental caries (form of tooth decay) - Tobacco contains high amount of caries promoting sugar like sucrose , fructose which enhance

the growth of cariogenic bacteria (decay causing strain of bacteria). Caries develop on the root surface of teeth adjacent to which tobacco is placed


2) Tooth abrasion & Discolouration - Tooth  enamel wears off easily because of acid content in the tobacco . Teeth also get discoloured because of nicotine


3) Periodontitis (Gum disease) - There is 20% increase risk of gum diseases with smokers . Risk of jaw bone loss is 7 times greater

in smokers than non smokers. Localised gum recession & high rate of tooth loss is also major concern in these cases


4) Altered taste & sense of smell  coupled with bad breath


5) Oral tissue changes -  Smokers palate ( reddish patch on the palate ) , Melanosis  (discolouration), oral candidiasis or fungal infection .

Permanent lesions in the oral cavity

- Leukoplakia  - Pre  cancerous lesion which is seen as raised white patch in the mouth , which can not be Scraped off.

- Oral sub mucous fibrosis - It is chronic Pre cancerous condition of the oral cavity characterised by inflammation and progressive fibrosis of the

cheek tissue & other deep tissues  resulting in stiffening of mouth & reduced mouth opening .

- Oral cancer - It is usually found on the lip , floor of the mouth , side of the tongue , gums & soft palate area. In the initial stage it is asymptomatic,

generally reddish appearance .

Treatment options

Fortunately , there are treatments that help people to counteract the disruptive effects of addiction . Several public health actions have been taken

by WHO to control tobacco related oral diseases .Tobacco cessation clinics is an initiative by the WHO  and Ministry of Health of India . The services

offered at the clinic include behavioural counselling, medication & nicotine replacement therapy .

Behavioural therapy includes multiple sessions of individual or group counselling .

Nicotine replacement therapy includes nicotine gum, the transdermal patch, nasal spray & inhalers .

Role of Dentist

Dentist plays major role in diagnosing the chronic diseases and guiding the patient about ill effects of tobacco abuse. Dentist play unique role in

identifying the particular symptoms and explaining the consequences to the patient associated with smoking .

Avoid Tobacco !!!

Keep smiling :)

Dr. Sumedha Nandakumar


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