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Oral Health, Tobacco and Oral Cancer


The number of oral cancer patients in India contributes to a third of global oral cancer patients and oral cancer is the 6th most common cancer across the globe. 


There is a strong correlation between oral cancer and betel nut quid chewing, tobacco smoking , smokeless tobacco and excessive consumption of alcohol. There have been plenty of researches which have concluded that tobacco has a direct and indirect carcinogenic effect. Whether it is tobacco in form of bidi or cigarette or smokeless tobacco in various forms like Mishri, kheni, gul, mawa, gudakhu, dohra snuff etc; tobacco has always been and will remain detrimental to the mouth and other parts of the body – health. 

Q. Why has the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and areca nut increased over the last 2 decades? 

In this modern day, many people turn to tobacco for relieving their stress or to drive away their boredom or to ‘fit in’ in their social circle. 


Q. People of the older generation have been eating supari/ paan/ tobacco /smoking for the past 50 years.  Why should you quit? 

Many people say “mera dada bhi khaate hain, aur unko kuch nahi hua” – my grandfather chews (tobacco) and nothing happened to him. The times have truly changed. With the increase in pollutants in soil or water or food or air and changes in lifestyle, the exposure to carcinogens or cancer causing substances has become tenfold and so has the risk. 


Q. How can one prevent oral cancer?  

There are many strategies to reduce the risk for oral cancers, the most effective and important being abstinence and withdrawal of tobacco, areca nut (paan) and alcohol in all forms.  Other contributory factors like poor oral hygiene, repeated trauma like from a sharp tooth edge in the mouth, viral infections like HPV, nutrient deficiency need to be addressed.  The other preventive measures are good oral hygiene, 6 monthly dental checkups, monthly self-examination, good balanced nutritious diet including vegetables especially cruciferous ones, fruits. 


Q. When should one be concerned and visit the dentist immediately as anyone can get oral cancer? 

If  there is any non healing ulcer, or bleeding from any part of the mouth, loose teeth, whitish or reddish discoloration of any part in the oral cavity, any lumps or sores that have not healed even after  14 days or there is a decrease in the mouth opening or difficulty in swallowing, one should visit the dentist immediately. 


Q. What would a good oral examination by a dentist consist of? 

A systematic visual examination and palpation of the lips, teeth, cheeks, palate, tongue, salivary glands, lymph nodes to check for any irregularities or abnormalities. 


Q. How can we, at Medanta help you? 

We, at Medanta hospital, Department of Dental Sciences, can examine your mouth, guide you how to quit tobacco, be in follow up if any suspicious lesion is found or if you have been found to have oral cancer, treat you in collaboration with an entire interdisciplinary team.  An early detection of oral cancer leads to early intervention, treatment and better quality of life so don’t take any suspicious lesion lightly. 

Medanta Medical Team
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