Mouth cancer referrals plummet by a third since start of pandemic

The Oral Health Foundation is calling for urgent action around cancer diagnosis, following new data that shows mouth cancer referrals have fallen by a third (33%) since the beginning of the pandemic. 

New figures collected from seven NHS Trust Hospitals across the UK, reveals the number of people being referred for possible mouth cancer fell from 2,257 in the six months prior to March 2020, to 1,506 in the six months after March 2020.

In total, six out of the seven NHS Trusts saw mouth cancer referrals tumble during this time, with two hospitals in Wales recording a 47% drop in referrals – the most in the UK.

In Northern Ireland, mouth cancer referrals have fallen by 36% since the beginning of the pandemic while England and Scotland have seen decreases of 31% and 30%, respectively.

Many mouth cancers are spotted in the early stages by a dentist during a routine check-up.  With Covid-19 limiting dental practice activity to 20% of normal activity, the Oral Health Foundation is deeply concerned that many people with early stages of mouth cancer are going undiagnosed.

In the absence of seeing health professionals face-to-face, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation highlights the importance of self-checks at home and knowing how to spot mouth cancer in the early stages.

Dr Carter says: “Regular dental check-ups and GP appointments are the main routes for identifying the early stages of mouth cancer.  We fear that without access to dental and wider health professionals, that many mouth cancer cases will go undiagnosed.

“A person’s quality of life after being treated for mouth cancer, as well as their chances of beating the disease, is highly dependent on the time of diagnosis.  By allowing so many potential mouth cancers to go untreated, there is a real danger of more people losing their life to the disease.

“While dental and GP visits remain disrupted it is important that everybody knows how to check themselves for mouth cancer. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, contact your dental practice, who will be able to see you as an emergency patient.”

Mouth cancer can appear on the tongue, tonsils, gums and lips.  It can also be found on the roof and floor of the mouth, as well as the head and neck.

Mouth ulcers lasting three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth, or unusual lumps and swellings, are the typically early warning signs.  Persistent hoarseness can also be a symptom.

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on dental access in the UK.  Research by the Oral Health Foundation shows that more than half (56%) of UK adults claim to have had dental check-ups postponed or cancelled.

During this time, one-in-six (16%) have experienced at least one of the potential early warning signs of the disease.

Meanwhile, the British Dental Association estimate a 10 million backlog of appointments due to dental practices being forced to shut down during the pandemic.

Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, believes it is crucial that dental practices remain open during the remainder of the pandemic.

Dr Rutland says: “Dentists continue to play a vital role in identifying mouth cancer at routine check-ups.  However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, access to dentistry was severely curtailed and opportunities to catch mouth cancer early will have been missed. If mouth cancer is spotted early, the chances of a complete cure are good.

“The Foundation’s recent research has revealed that nearly four in 10 people reported encountering an issue and being unable to see or get advice from their dentist because of the current limited access to dentistry caused by the pandemic.  Keeping practices open from now on is vitally important to help ensure the early detection of mouth cancer. It could save thousands of lives.”

Stuart Caplan was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2012.  The husband and father-of-one from Marble Arch, lost two-thirds of his tongue to the disease but says acting quickly was key for him beating the disease.

Stuart says: “Mouth cancer is a hidden cancer, unlike a lot of cancers where there are obvious symptoms.  People think ‘oh it’s only a mouth ulcer, it’ll pass’.  It’s easy to just put a mouth ulcer treatment on and ignore it, and without visiting a dentist regularly it’s likely to get missed.

“If it’s not normal for you, get it checked immediately, especially you have had something for a few weeks. Cancer symptoms don’t go away. That’s the litmus test.  Go and see a dentist or hygienist.”

Figures collected by the Oral Health Foundation show that 8,722 people in the UK were diagnosed with the disease last year, increasing by 97% since 2000.

Mouth cancer cases in the UK have soared for the 11th year in a row and have more than doubled within the last generation.

It is also vital that government issues updated advice about fallow periods for dental practices. Some practices are still working to the original one-hour fallow period, while others have reduced their time between patients.  More frequent communication and direction is needed.

References: 

  • Oral Health Foundation (2020) ‘State of Mouth Cancer UK Report 2020/21’ Published November 2020, online at www.mouthcancer.org.
  • Mouth cancer referral data was collected from; NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, Bwrdd Lechyd Prifysgol Aneurin Bevan, NHS Birmingham Community Healthcare Foundation Trust, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, NHS Wye Valley NHS Trust, and NHS South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

Know the dangers and reduce your risk: charity reveals leading causes of mouth cancer

The Oral Health Foundation is urging Brits to recognise and act on things that increase their chances of developing mouth cancer, as new research reveals awareness of the most common risk factors is worryingly low.

The call to action comes as part of November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month and coincides with a nationwide poll into how much UK adults know about a disease which has increased by more than 58% in the last decade.

The charity is particularly concerned by the report’s finding into smokers and those who drink over the government’s 14 units of alcohol per week – two of the most high-risk mouth cancer groups.

Less than half of excessive drinkers (46%) know alcohol is a risk factor for mouth cancer while just over half (54%) of smokers know smoking is a risk factor for mouth cancer.

One of the other leading causes of mouth cancer, the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through oral sex, was known to only 16% of the population.

Here are the main causes of mouth cancer and what you can do to help reduce your risk.

Smoking

Around two-in-three mouth cancers are directly caused by smoking.  The risk of being diagnosed with mouth cancer for a smoker is almost double (91%) that of somebody who has never smoked.  Cigars, pipes and environment tobacco smoke are also commonly linked to the disease.

Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, says: “Smoking has long been associated with an increased risk of developing mouth cancer and has historically been one of the disease’s leading risk factors.

“The good news is that far less people are smoking today, which will certain have a positive effect on the number of cases in the future.  People who quit smoking reduce their risk with each year that passes, until their chances of being diagnosed with the disease is no greater than that of somebody who has never smoked.  Lowering your mouth cancer risk is just one of the many health benefits linked with quitting smoking.”

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol to excess is responsible for around a third of all mouth cancers. Those who drink between 1.5 and 6 units of alcohol a day could be increasing the risk of mouth cancer by 81%.  Mouth cancer is 2.5 times higher in regular drinkers than non-and occasional drinkers, and for those who heavily drink alcohol and also smoke, the risk increases by 30 times.

Dr Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, adds: “Certain lifestyle habits unfortunately do increase the risk of mouth cancer and this year sadly these habits for some people are likely to have increased during lockdown. Most lesions, in the region of 75% are linked to the use of tobacco or alcohol.

“As a general rule, the recommended government advice is you should try to reduce your alcohol intake to a maximum of 14 units per week applicable for men and women (equivalent to 2-3 units per day).  Avoid using tobacco in any form and try to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day as the antioxidants in these also help protect against many other cancers.”

The human papillomavirus (HPV)

The human papillomavirus (HPV) type-16 and 18 are linked to around three-in-four (73%) throat cancers and more than one-in-ten (12%) mouth cancers.  The risk of HPV mouth cancer is higher in those with more sexual partners, people who started having sex at a younger age, and men who have ever had sexual contact with men.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE adds: “Over recent years, many experts have pointed to HPV as the cause of the sustained rise in mouth cancer cases.  Because it is sexually transmitted, most people have the HPV virus, but for many it is entirely symptomless.  Other than having a vaccination, it is difficult to protect yourself from HPV cancers and diseases, so the best advice is just to understand your level of risk and be aware of any sudden chances to the mouth, head or neck.”

Chewing and smokeless tobacco

Smokeless tobacco, including chewing tobacco, such as betel quid (gutkha) or paan is known to increase mouth cancer risk by up to four-and-a-half times.  In the UK, it is often popular in South Asian communities and worryingly, more than one-in-five (23%) smokeless and chewing tobacco users are unaware their habits put them at risk.

Dr Rutland says: “It’s a common misconception that smokeless or chewing tobacco poses less of a mouth cancer risk.  That’s not true and the risk may be higher in females and for users of chewing types of smokeless tobacco.”

Diet

A diet low in fruit and vegetables may increase your risk of mouth cancer.  This could be due to a lack of vitamins and minerals, which is provided under a balanced diet. More than three-in-four (76%) people are unaware that diet might be a contributing factor to mouth cancer.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, says: “A balanced diet containing fruit and vegetables is a well-known indicator for good nutrition and to maintain your physical health and overall wellbeing. We understand that diet also plays a role in the development of mouth cancer, so making sure you stick to your five-a-day is incredibly important.” 

Figures collected by the Oral Health Foundation show that 8,722 people in the UK were diagnosed with the disease last year, increasing by 97% since 2000.

Mouth cancer cases in the UK have soared for the 11th year in a row and have more than doubled within the last generation, while the disease claimed the lives of 2,702 Brits last year.

For more information about mouth cancer, including how to do a self-check for the disease, visit www.mouthcancer.org.

‘Giving up wasn’t an option’ says wife and mother who battled mouth cancer

Sarah Davies (46) was set to celebrate her 40th birthday when her life took an unexpected turn that would change her life forever.

The wife and mother-of-one from Coventry began to feel some pain in the left side of her gum, just below one of her back teeth.  She thought it was just a mouth ulcer, but something was odd about it.

“At first, I didn’t think much of it and carried on with my everyday life,” Sarah says.

“It didn’t feel like a normal mouth ulcer though, sometimes it would send a feeling like an electric shock through the left side of my face.”

One month later, when the pain and inflammation did not go away, Sarah booked an appointment with her dentist.

The dentist treated the tooth above the inflammation with a filling.  When the problem continued, Sarah visited another dentist who suspected it was sinusitis.

It would be another nine months, after several dental visits and a last-ditch trip to A&E, that Sarah was finally given the diagnosis of mouth cancer.

Sarah says: “The doctor told me that they had results from my biopsy back and they had found malignant cells.  From what they could tell, the tumour was 20mm long and was squished up against the gum.”

Despite several knock-backs, Sarah’s persistence meant that she was able to catch her cancer in the early stages.

This gave Sarah the very best chance of beating the disease.

Sarah received both radiotherapy and chemotherapy and was given the all clear five years ago.

Despite surviving mouth cancer, Sarah continues to live with the after effects that impact her life to this day.

Sarah adds: “Following my treatment, I developed trismus, also called lockjaw, which has impacted my life dramatically.  I am only able to open my jaw a matter of millimetres so eating with a knife and fork is tricky and it takes me a long time to eat my meals.

“When going out with friends and family I usually order kids meals so that people aren’t waiting around for too long and if I want a drink, I have to do it through a straw.”

As is common with many mouth cancer survivors, Sarah’s taste buds and salivary glands were also affected, taking some of the joy out of eating and making swallowing more difficult.

Despite the setbacks Sarah has always kept a positive attitude.  She admits to still having her down days when she feels frustrated or depressed but her friends, family as well as support from Macmillan nurses keep her going.

Sarah adds: “Some friends have commented that I’m amazing for having the attitude that I have but I don’t think of myself that way.  When you’re dealt something, you’ve got to face it.  I’ve got an incredible family and friends who’ve supported me through it all.

“The way I look at it is that you’ve got two choices; do what has to be done or give up. Giving up isn’t an option.”

Sarah is sharing her journey to raise awareness during November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month.

The charity campaign, run by the Oral Health Foundation, hopes to encourage more people to be mouthaware by being able to recognise the early signs and symptoms associated with mouth cancer.

Mouth cancer can appear as a long-lasting mouth ulcer that does not go away for three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth, or any lumps and swellings in the head or neck.  

During Mouth Cancer Action Month, the Oral Health Foundation and Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, have come together to raise awareness of the disease so that more people can beat it like Sarah.

Sarah admits that her knowledge of mouth cancer was poor before her diagnosis and hopes to inspire more people to learn about the disease, so they can spot it early.

Sarah says: “I didn’t really know about mouth cancer until I had it.  Then I started to look into it and realised just how many people it does impact. I will do anything to help make more people aware because the sooner mouth cancer is treated, the better your chances.

“If you think something isn’t right in your mouth then go and get it checked out.  It probably is nothing to worry about but it’s important you don’t ignore it.  I would also say that if you aren’t satisfied with the diagnosis you receive then go get a second opinion from another dentist or doctor.”

Catherine Rutland, Clinical Director at Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, agrees and also notes how catching mouth cancer early can greatly increase your chances of survival and a better quality of life.

Dr Rutland says: “If mouth cancer is spotted early, the chances of a complete cure are good.  Around 2,702 people in the United Kingdom lose their life to mouth cancer every year.  That’s seven people every day. It is widely recognised that many of these deaths could be prevented by early diagnosis. Early detection is by far the most important factor, as the stage at which mouth cancer is diagnosed has the most significant effect on overall survival as mouth (and throat) cancer can grow very quickly.

“Encouraging patients to attend regular dental examinations, carry out self-checks, and become familiar with the normal state of their mouth (and head and neck) is very important. To help raise patient awareness of the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer, the Oral Health Foundation have developed a range of excellent patient education resources available on their website.”

Most mouth cancer appear on the tongue or tonsils, but it can also occur on the lips, gums, roof and floor of the mouth.

Last year, new mouth cancer cases in the UK reached a record high of 8,722 – an increase of 97% compared to 20 years ago.

The key to beating mouth cancer is spotting it early.  If you notice any of the symptoms associated with mouth cancer, visit a dentist or doctor immediately.

For more information about mouth cancer, including how to do a self-check for the disease, visit www.mouthcancer.org.

New data reveals most people do not know the symptoms associated with mouth cancer despite record number of cases

Cases of mouth cancer in the United Kingdom have nearly doubled in the last 20 years, yet an alarming number are unable to identify the early warning signs and symptoms. Last year, more than 8,700 British adults were given the news that they had mouth cancer.  The disease is diagnosed on one person nearly every hour.

New research by the Oral Health Foundation as part of November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month reveals that seven-in-ten (71%) do not know the symptoms of mouth cancer.

Further findings show more than four-in-five (83%) do not feel confident in what they are looking for when it comes to doing a mouth cancer check at home while around two-in-three (62%) confess to never checking themselves for signs of the disease.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes with the number of cases on the rise, it is important for everybody to know how to spot the early signs of mouth cancer and know how to perform a simple self-check.

Dr Carter says: “In the UK, and around the world, the number of people affected by mouth cancer continues to grow at an astonishing rate.  Anybody is at risk of mouth cancer, and with limited  access to dentistry at the moment, it is more important than ever for people to be vigilant. That’s why it is so important to know how and where mouth cancer can strike.

“Look for mouth ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth or head and neck.

“Most mouth cancers appear on the tongue – around a third of all cases – but it can also strike on the tonsils, gums and lips.  It can also be found on the roof or floor of the mouth, as well as the throat.”

The new research shows that around one-in-two (52%) are aware that long lasting mouth ulcers could be a sign of mouth cancer while fewer know that red patches (41%) and white patches (48%) could be a symptom. Similarly, less than half (47%) identify lumps or swellings in the mouth, head or neck as a potential sign of mouth cancer, and even less (23%) know that persistent hoarseness might be a link.

The research has been published to coincide 20 years of Mouth Cancer Action Month.

The last two decades have painted a bleak picture for mouth cancer numbers in the UK.  New annual cases have soared by 97% since the year 2000, while those losing their life to the disease have increased by 48% in the last decade.  

For the last 20 years, the Oral Health Foundation has received support for the campaign from Denplan, part of Simplyhealth.  The partnerships between the two mouth cancer campaigners bids to turn the tide against the disease and create a more mouthaware population.

Catherine Rutland, Head Dental Officer of Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, highlights that conducting a potentially life-saving mouth cancer check is easy and can take as little as 45 seconds.

Dr Rutland says: “By spotting mouth cancer early, patients have a much better chance of beating it. With early diagnosis, the chances of surviving mouth cancer are nine out of ten and that’s why knowing what to look out for is so important. 

“A simple self-examination should involve checking your cheeks, gums, lips, tongues and tonsils. Also check the floor and roof of the mouth, as well as your head and neck. You should be looking for mouth ulcers that don’t heal within three weeks, red or white patches in the mouth or unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, head and neck.

“Mouth Cancer Action Month is the perfect opportunity to become mouthaware by learning the risks and early signs of mouth cancer. It is also important that we not only recognise, but act on unusual changes in the mouth.  If you notice anything out of the ordinary, get checked out by your dentist or doctor.”

For more information about mouth cancer, including how to do a self-check for the disease, visit www.mouthcancer.org.

The Oral Health Foundation pays tribute to Janet Goodwin, former charity President and oral health champion

Earlier this week we received the tragically sad news that Janet Goodwin, former President of the Oral Health Foundation, passed away from cancer.

A trustee for the best part of a decade, Janet became the first dental nurse to be elected President of the Oral Health Foundation in the charity’s nearly 50-year history.

During her time at the Oral Health Foundation, Janet played an influential role in helping steer the trustees to make informed decisions about the direction and future of the charity.  She believed strongly in improving people’s experiences, information and knowledge of dental health and best practices.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation considers Janet as a true ambassador for oral health and believes she leaves behind a lasting legacy for the Oral Health Foundation.

Dr Carter says: “Janet will be sorely missed by many, including myself.  She was not only a highly respected colleague but also a much-loved friend.

“Her unique and vibrant personality allowed Janet connect with people from all areas and walks of life.  We feel incredibly proud to have had Janet represent our charity for so long, and the people we are able to help today can be attributed to her guidance and vision. 

“During her time with our charity, Janet transformed the Board of Trustees by recruiting a wonderful group of people with forward-thinking approaches to oral health promotion, education and prevention. This will leave our charity in good stead for many years and we will also look back at her time with us with a great fondness and gratitude.”

For many people associated with the Oral Health Foundation, their last memories of Janet were her retirement party in December 2019.  The evening was filled with fun and laughter as the team went ten-pin bowling.

Current President of the charity, Dr Ben Atkins, worked alongside Janet for many years.

Dr Atkins added: “The news has been really difficult to digest. Janet was such a wonderful person to be around and was always there to support me.

“She always spoke with positivity and kind words, and a balance of frank talking which I truly respected.”

Janet began working in dentistry in 1971, and worked in general practice, community, dental hospitals and further education.

An influential figure within oral health, Janet held roles at Leeds Dental Hospital, The National Examining Board for Dental Nurses, The Faculty of General Dental Practice and the General Dental Council.

Oral Health Foundation teams with the French Dental Association and Unilever to launch Covid-19: Practical Guide

To assist to resumption of dental services, the Oral Health Foundation has joined with the French Dental Association and Unilever to release some simple and easy-to-follow recommendations. ‘Covid-19: Practical Guide’ is available to download here and is divided into five areas:

  • Organisation of the practice
  • Patients
  • Treatment
  • The provision of care
  • Bio cleaning and waste management

In addition, the Oral Health Foundation has produced further downloadable resources for dental practices that can be found at www.dentalhealth.org/coronavirus.

12 million Brits move to electric toothbrushes

The number of British adults cleaning their teeth with an electric toothbrush has surpassed those using a manual one for the first time, according to the findings of a new nationwide study. The new data shows that nearly 12 million people in the UK have switched to an electric toothbrush over the last five years.

Around two-in-three (67%) adults now use an electric toothbrush – an estimated 34 million people – an increase of 52%. The research has been conducted by the Oral Health Foundation and Oral-B as part of National Smile Month – a charity campaign to raise awareness about the importance of having good oral health.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes as the science behind the advantages of electric toothbrushes mounts, the decision whether to invest in one becomes much easier. “The strong and clear evidence is that electric toothbrushes are better for our oral health. Electric toothbrushes, especially those with heads that rotate in both directions, or ‘oscillating’ heads, are more effective at removing plaque than a manual brush.  This helps keep tooth decay and gum disease at bay.

“As technology has developed, the cost of having an electric toothbrush becomes even more affordable. Battery-powered toothbrushes are available for as little as £10 while electric brushes can be had for as little as £40. Whilst at the other end of the spectrum there are top end power brushes which have all the latest innovations such as artificial intelligence. Given the advantages of electric toothbrushes, having one is an excellent investment and could really benefit the health of your mouth.”

Recent data presented in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, found that electric toothbrushes led to 22% less gum recession and 18% less tooth decay over the 11-year period.

The charity’s research shows that nearly half (45%) make the switch to electric brushes because they believe it cleans better than a manual brush.  More than one-in-four (27%) invest in an electric toothbrush on the advice of their dentist.

Technology also seems to be a growing trend for why people have moved to electric toothbrushes.  Around one-in-seven (18%) buy an electric toothbrush because of features like in-built timers or that they can be connected to apps which keep a track on how well you are brushing.  Others simply enjoy having it as a gadget. 

Eva Castro Perea, Professional & Academic Manager, Oral-B believes new technology has allowed more people to take a greater interest in the health of their mouth. “Over the last five years we have seen tremendous advances in oral healthcare technology.  There are now electric toothbrushes that alert you to areas in the mouth you have missed, or let you know if you are brushing too hard, or not hard enough.  By having new access to your brushing habits and behaviours allows you to be a more effective brusher, which will in turn give you a healthier mouth. Other features such as in-build timers, allow users to track two minutes in a more reliable way.  This is especially important for children and has been shown to be an excellent motivator for them.”

Despite the benefits of using an electric toothbrush, one-in-three (33%) adults in the UK still use a manual toothbrush. Findings from the Oral Health Foundation show that manual brushing is closely related to both age and household income.

The charity says whether you currently use an electric toothbrush or not, it is important that you are following a good oral health routine.

Dr Carter adds: “If you follow a good oral health routine then whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush, you’ll have a healthy mouth either way. That means brushing for two minutes, twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste.  Brushing should be done last thing at night and at one other time during the day. A daily oral health routine would not be complete without cleaning in between your teeth with floss or interdental brushes and using mouthwash. Both can help to remove plaque bacteria from the mouth and keep your teeth and gums healthy.”

As part of National Smile Month, the Oral Health Foundation and Oral-B are hosting The Great British Brushathon on Wednesday 3 June. The event will ask people to post a video of themselves on social media brushing their teeth. The charity says the activity will help promote the value of tooth brushing and having a healthy smile.

To learn more about The Great British Brushathon and National Smile Month, visit www.smilemonth.org.

New research finds link between gum disease and erectile dysfunction

More time in the bathroom could lead to extra hours in the bedroom:

Don’t go soft on your oral health routine – that’s the message from the Oral Health Foundation after new research finds a link between gum disease and erectile dysfunction.

The study, published in the Journal of Periodontology, reveals that men with severe gum disease are more than twice as likely to suffer from impotence compared to those with healthy teeth and gums.1

The first study of its kind that involved a European population examined more than 150 men, and researchers were able to determine that three in four (74 per cent) with erectile dysfunction also had poor oral health.

In response to the findings, the Oral Health Foundation wants to emphasise the links between advancing gum disease and issues in other parts of the body and believes the benefits of taking better care of your gums can go far beyond a healthy mouth.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “As startling as these findings may be, it may turn out to be a wake-up call for men to start paying greater attention to their oral health, particularly their gums.

“In recent years, gum disease has been linked with conditions like diabetes, stroke and heart disease but an increased risk of coming up short in the bedroom may be the final straw for men who might have been reluctant to spend a little extra time looking after their gums.”

Gum disease happens when the tissues supporting the teeth swell and become sore or infected. If you fail to treat it in it’s early stages, the disease will continue to worsen, and can result in tooth loss.

Finding blood on your toothbrush or in the toothpaste you spit out after brushing is a common symptom of the condition. Your gums may also bleed when you eat, leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

“Fortunately, gum disease is an entirely preventable and treatable disease but avoiding it and lowering the risk of poor performance in the bedroom requires an effective and consistent oral health routine,” Dr Carter added.

“Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning in between your teeth once a day using interdental brushes and maintaining regular visits to the dentist are the best way to avoid or treat gum disease.

“It takes a relatively small amount of time to give your teeth and gums the care they need and falling short of that can really leave you in a difficult position later in the day.”

The research also says that treating gum disease by reducing inflammation of the gums can result in improved erectile function.

As well as being able to treat any signs of gum disease before it develops into a more serious issue, regular dental visits can also remove plaque and tartar from your teeth, as well as give your mouth a fresh bill of health.

For more info or advice visit www.dentalhealth.org.

  1. Martin A, Bravo M, Arrabal M et al. (2018) Chronic periodontitis is associated with erectile dysfunction. A case-control study in European population. Wiley: Journal of Clinical Periodontology. 2018;45:791-798.

How your favourite tipple could be changing the bacteria in your mouth… and it’s not good news

Just one alcoholic drink a day changes the balance of bacteria in the mouth and can lead to a range of diseases from tooth decay to cancer, a new study has revealed.

Researchers looking at the effects of alcohol on oral health discovered drinking habits influence the types of bacteria that reside in the mouth, with higher numbers of so-called ‘bad bacteria’ found in those who consume alcohol daily.

Scientists tested saliva samples from more than 1,000 adults and found that, compared to non-drinkers, those who had one or more alcoholic drinks per day saw a reduction of healthy bacteria in the mouth, with a significant increase of harmful bacteria also detected.

Such changes could contribute to alcohol-related diseases such as gum disease, tooth decay, head and neck cancer, and digestive tract cancers.

The Oral Health Foundation wants to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol and the impact that regular consumption can have on the mouth and overall health.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “There are hundreds of different types of bacteria in the mouth and they all play a highly significant role in a person’s wellbeing. These bacteria are finely balanced and important for maintaining everything from the immune system and how the body deals with pollution in the environment, to protecting the teeth and gums and aiding with digestion after eating and drinking.

“The bacterial imbalance from drinking alcohol can cause serious problems in the mouth, such as gum disease, as well as increase the risk of head and neck cancer and heart disease.”

The study also found the type of alcohol consumed also affects the type bacteria in the mouth, with researchers testing wine, beers and spirits.

They found that wine drinkers produce more bacteria responsible for gum disease when compared to non-drinkers while those who consume beer produce an increase in bacteria that are linked to dental decay.

Researchers were able to show that alcohol consumption is associated with decreased abundance of Lactobacillales, a bacterium beneficial to oral health by reducing the risk of tooth decay. They also found that alcohol suppresses the growth of pathogens that can help reduce gum inflammation.

“A number of high profile studies have previously pointed to the dangers around drinking alcohol to excess but this research offers an additional cause for concern,” added Dr Carter.

“It is therefore important to be aware of the effects that even moderate alcohol consumption can have on oral and overall health, if drinking is sustained over a prolonged period of time.

“The best way for somebody to protect themselves from alcohol-related disease is to drink moderately, both in volume and frequency.

“It is also especially important that before bed, teeth are brushed correctly after drinking alcohol. Don’t allow the bad bacteria to build up overnight.

“By giving the mouth a good clean last thing at night, bacteria in the saliva can be neutralised and help prevent any unwanted oral health or general health problems.”

Oral Health Foundation: “Decision to finally offer boys a HPV vaccination is one which will save many lives”

The decision to offer boys a vaccination against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), announced yesterday by Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has been hailed by the Oral Health Foundation as a decision that will save thousands of lives every year.

The charity believes the decision, which has been under consideration since 2013, will lead to many lives being saved due to the vaccination’s ability to prevent HPV related mouth cancer, as well as other life-threatening diseases.

Under the current programme almost 400,000 boys go unvaccinated every year, which has millions at risk of developing HPV related cancers later in life – cancers which are on the increase.

Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, discussed this momentous ruling: “This decision has been an incredibly long time coming and one we firmly believe it will be a significant moment in the ongoing battle against many types of cancer in the UK.

“This decision brings to and end what has been a dangerously discriminatory and unfair HPV vaccination programme in Britain, which has left millions of boys and men unprotected from the biggest sexually transmitted infection in the world.

“HPV is one of the leading causes of mouth cancer; but now we hope that with the swift implementation of the vaccination programme we will see a significant reduction in these numbers.

“Since 2008, girls have been offered a HPV vaccination through a school based programme to protect against cervical cancer, but this has been proven to offer little protection for men from life-threatening diseases caused by HPV; including mouth, penile and anal cancers as well as genital warts.”

Every year more than 7,500 Brits are diagnosed with mouth cancer, with the disease claiming in excess of 2,000 lives – more than testicular and cervical cancer combined.

“There has also been overwhelming support for the vaccine from health professionals and public alike,” added Dr Carter.

“A recent poll from campaign group HPV Action discovered that 97 per cent of dentists and 94 per cent of GPs believe that the national HPV vaccination programme should cover both boys and girls, we have also seen roughly 84 per cent of the public support an extended vaccination programme.

“It has become very apparent that the only certain way to protect boys effectively from HPV is through a national vaccination programme and now this has finally come to fruition we will push for it to be implemented swiftly and effectively so we can ensure that it is most effective in saving lives in the future.”