Oral Cancer, what you need to know.

Approximately 1 in 800 British Columbians have a precancerous area in their mouth and about 3,200 Canadians are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Oral cancer is a disease of soft tissue not teeth, so it can also affect anyone even older adults who do not have their natural teeth.

Oral cancer generally has a high mortality rate due to late detection. Late-stage treatment of the disease can also result in disfigurement and affect daily activities such as eating. Oral cancer screening is a highly effective tool for identifying pre-cancerous lesions, and early detection may improve prognosis.

When to seek a screening.

If you have any areas of concern in your oral tissues, such as discolouration, unusual textures, lesions, or sensitivity you should contact your dentist for an exam. It is also important to have regular dental cleanings as your soft and hard oral tissues are all examined by the dentist as part of their routine examination.

What happens if my dentist finds an area of concern?

If your dentist finds a lesion or other unusual spot in your mouth they may recommend a VELscope assessment. A VELscope instrument is a system that relies on the loss of fluorescence in visible and non -visible high risk oral lesions that can be identified by applying direct fluorescence. In simpler terms, a special blue light is used to light your oral tissues that makes it easy to spot changes in the tissues.

If a lesion or other area is concerning we will perform a biopsy on the tissue and send the sample to the BC Oral Biopsy Service at Vancouver General Hospital for testing.

Who is High Risk?

People with a high risk of oral cancer may be more likely to benefit from oral cancer screening, though studies haven’t clearly proved that. Factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer include:

  • Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, among others
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Previous oral cancer diagnosis
  • History of significant sun exposure, which increases the risk of lip cancer

Quiz Time – What do you know about teeth?

Pop Quiz – how much do you know about your teeth and how to care for them?

1 – How many teeth does the average adult have?

A) 20

B) 28

C) 32

D) 36

2 – True or False: Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body

3 – How many litres of saliva can a human produce in a year?

A) 480L

B) 730L

C) 40L

D) 1,072L

4 – True or False: Teeth are the only part of the human body that can’t repair themselves

5 – How long does the average person spend each day brushing their teeth?

A) 48 seconds

B) 1 minute

C) 1 minute 16 seconds

D) 2 minutes

6 – True or False: Your adult teeth can grow back once extracted.

7 – How much of your tooth is below the gum line?

A) 1/2

B) 1/3rd

C) 1/5th

D) 1/8th

8 – True or False: Humans are born with 18 primary teeth below the gum line

9 – How often does your dentist recommend brushing and flossing your teeth?

A) Brush once daily, floss every other day

B) Brush twice daily, floss once per week

C) Brush twice daily, floss once per day

D) Brush after every meal, floss every time you brush

10 – True or False: If flossing causes your gums to bleed, you should avoid flossing.








Quiz Answer Key:

C,  The average adult has 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 bicuspids, 8 molars, and 4 wisdom teeth

2  True, enamel is even harder than bone!

3  B, 730L  now that is a lot!

True, teeth cannot repair themselves – that’s why we do fillings, root canals, crowns, etc…

A, you should be brushing 4 minutes each day! 2 minutes in the morning and 2 minutes before bed

6  False, most mammals cannot regrow their teeth – unlike reptiles and fish

7  B, 1/3rd of your tooth, (the root) is below your gum line. When it becomes exposed due to recession it can be very painful

8  False, infants have 20 teeth below the gum line waiting to erupt during teething (ouch!)

C, everyone should be brushing twice daily and floss once

10 False, When you floss often and regularly, the gum tissue between your teeth becomes more resilient and stops bleeding when flossed