April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
I have been fortunate enough in my 22 years as a general dentist to not have personally been affected by oral cancer in my practice, until this year. A patient was in the office for a routine hygiene visit. He presented with an ulcerated area that he felt was due to aggressive brushing. It did not present as a normal toothbrush abrasion, so I referred him to a periodontist for a biopsy. The results came in as squamous cell carcinoma: ORAL CANCER. Fortunately, this was diagnosed at an early stage and his prognosis is positive. When the patient returned for another visit, we discussed the treating ENT surgeon’s thoughts on the possible etiology (reason) he may have developed oral cancer. This patient does not smoke or drink alcohol. The conclusion, after an extensive history, was alcohol based mouthwash. For example, Listerine or Scope with alcohol. This patient has an extensive history of mouthwash use 2x/day or more for many years. While the research is limiting as a direct cause for oral cancer, alcohol based mouthwash has a very drying effect on the tissue in the mouth. Therefore, if you are a “rinser” on a daily basis, make the switch to Listerine ZERO or Crest ProHealth, both containing no alcohol in the rinse.
If you are at all concerned with any sores in your mouth that have not healed beyond 2 weeks time, please contact your dentist for an oral examination.