City Health Information
Volume 32 (2013) New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene No. 1; 1-6



Promoting Oral Health
  • Caries and periodontal disease can largely be prevented by limiting sugar intake, brushing teeth twice daily, and flossing daily.

  • Examine the mouth for signs of oral disease and assess oral health risks, such as poor oral hygiene and alcohol or tobacco use.

  • Educate patients about good oral hygiene and regular dental visits and make referrals as appropriate.


About 800 New Yorkers are diagnosed with oral or throat cancer each year, and about 190 die from these conditions. Seventy percent of oral and throat cancers in NYC with a known stage were diagnosed late, after the cancer had spread (3). In NYC between 2004 and 2008, men had more than twice the rate of new oral and throat cancers as women (14 vs 6 cases per 100,000 people) (6). Tobacco and heavy alcohol use (more than 4 alcoholic drinks per day) are risk factors for oral cancer and may cause up to 75% of oral cancers (1,32-34). Oral cancer has a long latency period (1), suggesting a need to assess current and former smokers and heavy alcohol users (34,35).

Oral cancer treatment is most effective when tumors are detected early. Look in the mouth for lesions and refer patients with persistent white or red lesions (Box 3).


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