Self-check for Oral Cancer

A new report from the Oral Health Foundation this week says that throughout the UK oral cancer referrals have dived by 33% since the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic. This did not happen because fewer people have symptoms of oral cancer; it happened because referrals and exams are not happening. I have not yet seen figures for the US.oral cancer common site - paid - shutterstock 1092560240

I understand that many people are afraid to visit their dentist during the Pandemic, despite statistics arguing otherwise. In fact, I saw a note in one recent article that visiting your dentist is safer than the pharmacies and grocery stores.

Dentists have been concerned since the beginning of the pandemic that oral health issues are proceeding without diagnosis and without intervention. I’d like to suggest a compromise. If you are afraid to visit your dentist’s office you can spend less than one minute checking yourself for mouth cancer. A self-check is not a substitute for a dental exam, but it may be enough to advise you if you need to overcome your fear and visit your dentist right away.

This is how to do a self-check for mouth cancer.

  1. Use your hands to check your head and neck for unusual bumps, lumps or sores.
  2. Examine the inside of your mouth next. Check for any strange patches of white, or for a lump or an ulcer that has persisted for more than 3 weeks. Be sure to examine both sides of your mouth and the tissue under your tongue.
  3. Check the inside of your cheeks for bumps or lumps and for patches of red or white tissue.
  4. Check the roof of your mouth visually and by using your fingers for swelling or bumps.
  5. Check your lips. Pull out each lip and look for any red or white tissue.

If you find nothing unusual, you may be safe to delay your next visit to your dentist. If, however, you identify something unusual, you need to see your dentist as soon as possible. Oral cancer, when found early, is treatable and curable in many cases. If the cancer is advanced, the chances of curing it, are far less. Delaying treatment by as little as 3 to 6 months can mean the difference between a complete cure and a bad outcome.

If you have trusted your dentist in the past to protect you from infection and illness, you should be able to trust your dentist today.

Protect Your Teeth and Gums During the Holidays

The foods, desserts, and treats of the holiday season are an ongoing temptation for most of us. Whether or not you are inclined to give in to these temptations, it is important to protect your teeth and gums during the holidays. Here are a few quick reminders to help you stay on track. Christmas Cake - pixabay cco free - -1390424 640

ü  Don’t crack nuts with your teeth

ü  Don’t open packages or bottles with your teeth

ü  Don’t bite your nails

ü  Don’t chew ice cubes

ü  Avoid chewy treats (they tend to stick to your teeth and leave sugar behind)

ü  Avoid chewing hard candy (prevent chipped or broken teeth) – including candy canes

ü  Limit your holiday treats

ü  Maintain your dental hygiene

ü  Keep dental appointments

ü  Limit alcohol intake

ü  Limit starchy foods (they stick to and between teeth)

ü  Try to eat sweets either with or immediately after a meal (eating produces saliva, which moderates acid and bacteria)

ü  Drink plenty of water

ü  Eat cheese (contains cavity-fighting agents that preserve tooth enamel and kill bacteria)

ü  Avoid soda

ü  Eat fruits like apples, strawberries, and kiwi, which wash away food particles and bacteria

ü  Eat vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumbers (removes food particles that can become plaque)

ü  If your breath needs sweetening, try chewing fresh herbs like parsley, mint, and cilantro

ü  Turkey is good for your teeth

ü  COVID-19 and the Holidays create stress. Many people grind their teeth when under stress

ü  Try to protect your mouth when playing games or sports. If it is convenient, use your mouthguard


Also remember that toothbrushes, toothbrush heads, toothpaste, dental floss, and picks make great stocking stuffers.


You can protect your teeth and gums while enjoying the flavors of the season. Happy holidays.

Bad Dental Advice on TikTok

There is a lot of really bad dental advice on TikTok (the social media site). The holiday season is typically a time when we all want to look our best. This year, the emphasis may shift to being photogenic. With the continual explosion of new cases of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), many states are on the verge of new quarantine requirements. This is girl pulling own tooth SM - paid - shutterstock 138351179the perfect atmosphere for a storm of disastrous outcomes of some really bad decisions about dental self-care.

TikTok seems to be the primary site for dental self-treatment videos. Teens and young adults are making videos of themselves engaging in DIY dental care. The care ranges from using a nail file to make teeth even to using potentially dangerous concentrations of hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth, to extracting one’s own tooth, to trying to do orthodontic work on one’s own teeth. Unfortunately, the demonstration videos are easier to find on TikTok than the videos made after people deal with the aftermath of their self-care.

If they are extremely lucky, some of those who try these DIY dental procedures will only be left with some tooth sensitivity. Those who are not so lucky (or those who do more than minimal self-care) can look forward to fillings, root canals, crowns, extractions, infections, implants, or more extensive surgery.

This might be a good time for a family discussion about trying everything one sees on social media. Knowing the possible harm that could result from self-care, many of those who made videos of their experiments made new videos saying they would not have tried DIY dentistry.

To learn more about the self-treatments, their dangers, and likely outcomes, we recommend these recent articles:

I Really Sliced My Tongue

It is not uncommon to bite your tongue a little bit from time to time. We just need to protect it for a day or two until the soreness is gone. But if you really slice your tongue, you need to take action.bite your tongue - paid - Depositphotos 82544376 s-2019

By “slice your tongue” we mean a deep cut in the surface or biting off (or nearly so) a piece of your tongue. These injuries typically hurt and bleed. An injury of this sort needs medical attention.

Common Circumstance of Sliced Tongues

  • A slip while eating
  • Jarring while playing sports
  • Being under dental anesthesia
  • Falling or being in a car crash
  • While sleeping
  • During a seizure
  • Self-harm

What to do Immediately

  1. Wash your hands to avoid transmission of bacteria
  2. Rinse with clear (clean) water
  3. Cover the cut with a gauze pad or a clean cloth
  4. Press on the injury to stop the bleeding
  5. When it stops bleeding, suck on an ice cube to reduce the swelling and the pain
  6. Watch for indications of infection (pus, fever, swelling)

Note: don’t tilt your head back. This will cause blood to be swallowed.

When you need additional treatment. It is important that you seek treatment as soon as possible, so that you have the best treatment options available. You should go to a hospital emergency room or an urgent care center if

  • The bleeding does not stop
  • The bleeding stops and then starts again
  • You see a big open cut
  • A piece of your tongue has been cut off completely or partially (take the lost piece if possible. In some cases, the tongue can be reconstructed)
  • If you are in great pain and the pain is not abated by ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • You have trouble swallowing, opening (or closing) your mouth, or breathing
  • The injury is caused by some object that may be dirty and cause infection

Treatment will involve cleaning the cut and removing any debris or other objects. The doctor will also examine the area to identify any indications of infection or nerve damage. The doctor will likely close the cut with stitches or sutures. In some cases, antibiotics will be prescribed to prevent or treat infection. Then follow all of the doctor’s instructions for allowing the injury to heal.

Some cases of tongue injuries can be prevented by wearing a seatbelt while riding in a car or truck and by wearing a well-fitting mouthguard when playing sports.

Asthma and Your Oral Health

People with asthma (approximately 235 million people worldwide) are significantly more likely to develop gum disease according to a study reported in the Journal of Periodontology.  asthma inhaler - paid - Depositphotos 350926360 s-2019


Asthma is marked by narrowing and inflammation of your airways, causing shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. Inhaled medication and breathing through your mouth because the nasal airways are blocked or restricted often cause dry mouth. When untreated, dry mouth causes plaque development, tooth decay, and gum disease.


It is vital that everyone with asthma focus particularly on oral health. You may need to brush your teeth after using an inhaler (rather than just rinsing). You will need to drink water throughout the day to treat the dryness and stimulate or substitute for saliva. You may need to take a medication for dry mouth. Finally, you may need to speak with your doctor about inhalers that are easiest for you to use, or ask about an adaptive device to use with your inhaler that helps to channel the medication to the back of your throat rather than the sides or roof of your mouth.


Just as you need to care for your respiratory system and your airways, protecting your smile and your oral health will also need special attention. Work with your dentist to develop a strong dental hygiene protocol that is right for you.


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