Oral cancer is no joke; according to the American Cancer Society, this serious disease claims over 11,000 lives annually—and affects many more! Despite the constant advancements in science and healthcare, oral cancer has no true cure; and many people receive a late diagnosis that makes treatment very difficult and complicated. However, there are many warning signs and risks factors associated with oral cancer, and a little knowledge and prevention can go a long way towards protecting your smile and overall health. Keep reading to learn more.
What Increases My Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?
Not only is there no definitive cure for oral cancer; there’s also no definitive cause! But it has been linked to a few things, including:
- Smoking and tobacco use, including cigarettes, pipes, cigars, smokeless and chewing tobacco
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
- Sun or radiation exposure
- Other types of head or neck cancer
- A weakened immune system
There is also evidence that oral cancer is more likely to develop in men and also those over the age of 50.
Are There Ways to Minimize My Risk of Oral Cancer?
There are luckily many things you can do to minimize your risk—arming yourself with knowledge is key, as preventing oral cancer heavily revolves around healthy and smart lifestyle choices. The most important choice of all is to never start smoking or quit if you already do. Smoking is notorious for putting you at risk—plus it can lead to several other health problems, too!
You should take measures to fortify your body and immune system. A well-balanced diet consisting of lean proteins, complex carbs, healthy fats, and plenty of hearty vegetables and fruits can do a lot for your overall health. Avoiding processed and sugary foods can also help to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth, which in turn will help to preserve your oral health.
Also show caution when drinking hot beverages or enjoying hot foods—these items can sometimes burn the inside of your mouth, which will encourage bacterial growth. Also protect the outside of your mouth by wearing SPF lip balm and limiting your mouth’s exposure to the sun.
What Symptoms Should I Watch For?
Your whole mouth is vulnerable to oral cancer—your lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, and throat can all be affected! That means there are a few things to look out for:
- Mouth sores on the gums, tonsils, and lining of the mouth
- Lumps in your cheeks
- Swelling in your neck and throat
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw and tongue
- Loose teeth
- Constant bad breath
If any of these symptoms linger for two or more weeks, you should contact your dentist immediately; prolonging treatment can greatly increase the risk of cancer developing.
Oral cancer is among the most preventable types of cancer—but it depends on your willingness to make smart lifestyle choices and remain vigilant. This Oral Cancer Awareness month, be sure you’re aware of what you need to do to prevent oral cancer.
About the Author
Cross Creek Dental Care is proud to serve the dental needs of patients in the Marion community under the leadership of Dr. Eric Buck. Dr. Buck earned his DDS from The Ohio State University College of Dentistry and is involved in many professional organizations including the American Dental Association and the Ohio Dental Association. His practice offers a wide range of dental services including oral cancer screenings, and Dr. Buck would be happy to assist you and your loved ones. Schedule an appointment via website or phone: (740) 725-8000.