The Surprise Connection between Pollution & Oral Health

 Is Pollution Affecting Your Teeth?

Keeping your mouth clean and free of disease is an ongoing job – especially if you like white, beautiful teeth. The bacteria are constantly forming plaque, and, if it is not frequently removed, it will form tartar, which can lead to gum disease. Another threat to your oral health that many people are not aware of could be from the pollution in the air you breathe. 


Air Pollution

Many people are aware that some cities and places do not have the freshest air. In fact, some of it is horrible. All kinds of pollutants are released into the air at various places. Water pollution could also be affecting your health in some places. If you are close to the source, you can expect to be inhaling or consuming more pollutants. 

One study in Taiwan found a connection between air pollution and cancer. Previous health databases were examined and compared to various stations that monitored air quality. Several common air pollutants were considered that included carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. They also considered fine particulate matter that measured 2.5 micrometers or less – called PM2.5. 

The researchers looked at the records of more than 482,600 men who were 40 or older. Those who smoked or chewed betel quid were taken into consideration. Then, they looked at how many of them developed oral cancer and the area they lived. 

This study revealed that betel quid raised the risk of oral cancer. It also showed that when people were exposed to particulate matter above a certain level that it raised their oral cancer risk by 43 percent. 

Many of these chemicals are breathed into or will enter the body through the mouth. This could lead to oral cancer, which is a serious threat and often fatal. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there are about 657,000 cases of oral cancer each year worldwide. About half of this number – 330,000 – will die as a result of this disease. 


Other Forms of Pollution

Pollution can be found from many sources. Certain gases can be released into the air, particularly from coal and oil-burning plants. This can put acid into the air and you can breathe it. This can help to cause erosion of your teeth. Heavy metals can also be added to the air through smoking and from coal. Over time, breathing the air can lead to discolored teeth and tooth decay. Besides going into the mouth, these pollutants and others can enter into the lungs – and possibly produce cancer there as well. 


About Oral Cancer

In the United States, it is predicted that there will be about 53,000 new cases of oral cancer this year. Instead of going down, this number is going up each year. Of this number, it is also expected that 25 percent (13,500) will die from it. The mortality rate is higher than with other common types of cancer. 

The primary reason why mouth cancer has a higher mortality rate is that it is often only discovered in the more advanced stages. Before that, it is often painless and may not be easily spotted. It also will likely develop secondary tumors. This means that if you survive the first occurrence, you have a risk level that is 20 times higher that you will develop a second cancer. 

This type of cancer also tends to spread fast, due to the many blood vessels in the area. Getting treatment for it as soon as possible can increase your survival rate. 


Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

There is a rather wide variety of factors that may have a part in causing oral cancer. Some may depend on the area, the food, or the water and the chemicals or minerals that are present in them. This can include arsenic, an excess of fluoride, exposure to ultraviolet rays, wood smoke, and more. Oftentimes, genes and ultraviolet rays will work in combination to cause oral cancer. Other common causes include: 

  • Smoking – This remains the number one factor to cause oral cancer. This includes vaping because some have nicotine in them.
  • Alcohol – Although alcohol is not as bad as smoking, when combined they greatly raise your risk of oral cancer. 
  • HPV – The presence of HPV is responsible for the climb in cases of oral cancer. Many people do not know they have it and it can lie dormant for 30 years. 


Getting Advance Notice on Oral Cancer

When it comes to discovering oral cancer first, the dentist takes the lead. More cases of oral cancer are discovered in the dentist office than anywhere else. This is because the dentist will often provide oral cancer screening when they perform a dental cleaning.

Dentists are trained to recognize various types of mouth cancer. They can also take initial biopsies (brush biopsy) and send it to a lab for analysis. By making regular dental visits, mouth cancer can often be spotted early and treated before it becomes serious. 

Being careful to avoid the effects of pollution when you know about it is essential to healthy teeth. This requires good oral hygiene on a regular basis – brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing. 


If your teeth are suffering from problems with oral health or are wondering if you have oral cancer, you can receive treatment for it. ToothHQ Board Certified Periodontists can provide you with the dental treatments you need, as well as cosmetic dentistry in  our Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Dallas and Grapevine, TX offices. Most dental insurance plans are accepted. To set up a consultation or to get more information about how you can regain a healthy mouth, you can contact us at (214) 731 0123