When you visit the dentist, you’re usually anticipating having your teeth cleaned and inspected for cavities—oral cancer is probably the last thing on your mind. But this deadly disease claims 11,000 lives annually (per the American Cancer Society), and late diagnoses often make treatment difficult and complicated! This means visiting your dentist for preventive care is crucial to increase your overall level of protection. Here’s what you need to know about oral cancer and what you can to do safeguard your smile and overall health.
What Increases My Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?
Researchers aren’t certain what causes oral cancer, but it’s been linked to quite a few different things:
- Smoking and tobacco usage (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- A weakened immune system
- Sun or radiation exposure
- Other types of head or neck cancer
How Can I Minimize My Risk of Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is among the most preventable types of cancer and there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of developing it. The absolute best thing you can do is to never start smoking or quit if you already do—smoking is notorious for causing cancer, among other types of health problems!
You should also take measures to fortify your body and immune system, and a healthy, well-balanced diet is a great way to do this. Implement plenty of hearty fruits and vegetables into your meals and snacks, along with lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs. Avoid sugary and processed foods when you can, as these can encourage bacterial growth inside of your mouth.
You should protect the outside of your mouth, too—wear SPF lip balm when possible and try to minimize your mouth’s exposure to the sun. Also show caution when consuming extremely hot foods or drinks, as these items can burn your mouth and increase the risk of bacterial infection.
What Warning Signs Should I Watch For?
Since your whole mouth is vulnerable to oral cancer, there are a few warning signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Mouth sores on the gums, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
- Lumps in the cheeks
- Swelling in the neck or throat
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
- Loose teeth
- Constant bad breath
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms for two or more weeks, you should contact your dentist immediately; inaction will only increase the risk of oral cancer developing, or some other serious problem.
Oral cancer might be scary, but it doesn’t have to scare you—especially if you know what to look for and how to reduce your risk of developing it. A little knowledge goes a long way, so see your dentist if you have concerns and would like to protect your health and smile.
About the Practice
Benchmark Family Dental has proudly served patients and families in the Copperas Cove community for several years! The practice offers a wide range of cosmetic, restorative, preventive dentistry options, including oral cancer screenings and more. If you have any questions about the article or would like to schedule an appointment for checkup or screening, please reach out through the practice’s website or give them a call: (254) 547-4866.