General Family Dentist | Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Gladstone, Happy Valley and Portland, OR

Kevin H. Speer, D.D.S.
2250 SE Oak Grove Blvd.
Milwaukie, OR 97267


The Effect of Tobacco on the Mouth

person lighting a cigarette

We all know smoking causes lung cancer, stomach cancer, and many other cancers, but did you know that one of the most common cancers caused by smoking is oral cancer? Yes, you can get cancer of the mouth. Along with oral cancer, tobacco products discolor teeth, cause bad breath, and extremely expensive!

This disease plagues about 40,000 people in America and debilitates people by affecting the soft tissues in the mouth, including the tongue, throat, lips, and gums. If you smoke, the most important thing to do is to quit. This is the best way to guarantee a healthier life and minimize the probability of developing oral cancer.

One of the reasons we have patients come in every six months for a cleaning and exam is because it allows us to develop a baseline of health and track changes from there.

Why symptoms usually present with oral cancer?

The most common symptoms associated with oral cancer is thick skin around your soft tissues, bleeding, loss of feeling, and trouble swallowing or chewing. By monitoring what your mouth’s normal state is you can detect changes earlier and possibly save your life.

Who can get oral cancer?

This type of cancer is most common in men who are over the age of 50. This group of the population is twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer. Additionally, those who use tobacco products are at a much higher risk than the rest of the population.

In fact, tobacco users who use chew or dip are 50 times more likely to develop this cancer. Those who have been exposed to the HPV virus or have excessive sun exposure are also at risk.

How likely is a person to survive oral cancer?

The survival rate for those with oral cancer is highest in the first year, with 81% of people surviving. However, as time goes on the survival rate falls, with only 56% surviving in five years and 41% in ten years.

How is oral cancer treated?

There is no blanket treatment plan for oral cancer. The plan for you will depend on where the cancer is located and what stage it’s in. Oftentimes the plan is to remove the cancerous growth through surgery, then follow with chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the two.

How can I prevent oral cancer?

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid or stop using tobacco products, which are high-risk behaviors. Additionally, eat a healthy diet and get screened regularly by visiting Dr. Speer for checkups and cleanings twice a year.

If you have questions about quitting the use of tobacco products, oral cancer, or additional effects of tobacco on the mouth, contact us. Dr. Speer believes education is an important part of oral care and is happy to help guide you on the path toward better oral health.