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Alcohol Consumption Causes Mouth Cancer and Dental Disease

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consuming-alcohol-can-cause-dental-disease-and-mouth-cancer Hemera/Thinkstock

Your dentist can tell how much alcohol you've been drinking. Dental exams are recommended every six months, helping to keep your gums and teeth healthy and dental (periodontal) disease at bay, in addition to catching oral cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer a year, and approximately 8,000 people die of the disease annually.

The test requires the dentist to check one's oral cavity, neck, cheeks and head for any lumps or irregular changes with tissue. They will also look for any discoloration or sores.

The risk for developing cancer rises significantly with continued alcohol consumption. According to the American Cancer Society, the ethanol that is found in alcoholic beverages is directly linked to raising the risk for developing mouth cancer and dissolving dental health.

In the mouth specifically, alcohol acts as an irritant, damaging cells and changing those cells' DNA, thus leading to the possible development of mouth cancer.
In addition, alcohol acts as a solvent, aiding harmful chemicals in entering mouth tissues, especially when paired with smoking.

Alcohol abuse slows the immune system's response to penetrating harmful chemicals. This leads to not only the possibility of oral cancer, but also periodontal disease with the eventual cause of bacterial overgrowth as well as the infection of mouth tissues.

Dehydration also occurs with alcohol consumption, causing bacteria and plaque buildup since it is not consequently washed away by saliva.

According to Livestrong, the consumption of more than 10 drinks a week increases the probability of developing periodontal disease, and it increases from 10 percent to a 40 percent risk when raising consumption from 5 units to 20 units a week.

Possible symptoms of oral cancer to be aware of include bleeding sores that also do not heal, soreness or feeling that something is caught in the throat. Other symptoms are hard spots or lumps, difficulty in chewing or swallowing, ear pain and difficulty moving the jaw or tongue.

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Your dentist should be checking your mouth for oral cancer at every checkup. The earlier it is diagnosed(like with all cancer) the better off your results from treatment could be.

In my office, we use a device called a velscope (http://www.velscope.com/default.aspx?id=0&cat=patients). Non invasive light scope that can detect changes or abnormalities in the oral cavity. Ask your dentist about it. I have no affiliation with the velscope besides being a user in my office. I have noted at least 12 cancerous or precancerous lesions since using the velscope.

Marielaina Perrone DDS
Henderson Cosmetic Dentist

October 17, 2012 - 10:58am
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