April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) estimates 48,250 people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer this year, and someone loses their life to cancer every hour. Regular cancer screenings with our dentist in Boulder can help detect oral cancer early and give you a fighting chance to beat the odds.
A recent study conducted by the New York University Langone Medical Center and the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center found that cigarette smoking significantly alters certain bacteria in the mouth. While over 75% of oral cancers are thought to be linked to smoking, there are no clear links to how microbial differences in your mouth may affect your risk of developing oral cancer.
There are approximately 600 different forms of bacteria in the human mouth. This study found that the levels of 150 bacteria were higher in smokers’ mouths, while the levels of 70 bacteria were lower. Two aspects in particular were of interest:
- Protobacteria. This bacterium is thought to play a role in breaking down the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke. Protobacteria accounted for only 4.6% of all bacteria in smokers’ mouths, compared to 11.7% of non-smokers.
- Streptococcus. There were 10% more species of Streptococcus present in smokers’ mouths. This bacterium is known to promote tooth decay.
You can correct these bacteria levels by quitting smoking. Your oral microbiome can recover when tobacco is discontinued, but it’s unclear from the study how long that would take. The microbial balance in those who had stopped smoking at least ten years prior was identical to the balance in those who had never smoked.
If you’re concerned about your oral health in relation to cancer, please contact Dr. Adler in Boulder at (303) 449-1119 or use our contact form to request your oral cancer screening. Adler Advanced Dentistry serves Boulder, Denver, and Ft. Collins, Colorado and surrounding Colorado areas.