According to the American Cancer Society, over 11,000 lives are lost annually to oral cancer; and it affects many more. Late diagnoses are often complicated, if not impossible, to treat despite the constant advancements in healthcare, and there is still no definitive cure for the deadly disease. That said, there are many risk factors and warning signs associated with oral cancer and knowing what to look for and how to take care of your mouth can go a long way towards protecting yourself. Keep reading to learn more.
What Puts Me at Risk for Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer has been associated with quite a few things, including:
- Smoking and using tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco).
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
- Sun or radiation exposure
- Weakened immune system
- Other types of head or neck cancer
Is There Anything I Can Do to Minimize My Risk of Oral Cancer?
Fortunately, oral cancer is actually one of the most preventable types of cancer, and there are many things you can do to reduce your chances of developing it. The biggest one is to never start smoking or quit if you already do; smoking is notorious for causing a slew of health problems, and oral cancer is just one of them.
You should also take measures to fortify your body and immune system. Eat a healthy, vitamin-rich diet and avoid sugary and processed foods when you can. Stick to hearty fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and things with complex carbs and healthy fats. Of course, don’t forget to drink plenty of water; your saliva is your body’s primary mechanism for washing away the harmful bacteria that enters your mouth.
It also helps to physically protect your mouth; consider using SPF lip balm when you’re out and about and try to limit your face’s exposure to the sun by wearing a hat. Also be mindful of hot drinks and foods—burns can lead to infections that cause all sorts of problems!
Lastly, take good care of your mouth! Brush twice a day for two minutes each time, and don’t skip on flossing and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash. It’s also very important to visit your dentist at least twice a year for regular checkups and cleanings; and they can perform oral cancer screenings, too.
What Warning Signs Should I Watch For?
Keep an eye out for the following warning signs; they might warrant a trip to the dentist’s office:
- Swelling in your neck and throat.
- Lumps in your cheeks.
- Red or white sores on your gums, tonsils, or mouth tissue.
- Difficulty when speaking, biting, chewing, swallowing, or moving your jaw and tongue.
- Loose teeth.
- Constant bad breath.
Oral cancer is preventable, but it depends on your willingness to stay diligent and make wise lifestyle choices. This Oral Cancer Awareness Month, be mindful of the threat that oral cancer poses and do what you can to keep your mouth happy and healthy.
About the Author
Dr. Jamie Guthrie has proudly served patients and families in the Ardmore, OK area for over 15 years. Dr. Guthrie received her dental doctorate from the University of Oklahoma School of Dentistry and is a member of several professional organizations including the American Dental Association and the Oklahoma Dental Association. Her practice is pleased to offer a wide range of available services including preventive, cosmetic, restorative options and more. If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer or would like to schedule a visit, feel free to contact Dr. Guthrie through her practice’s website or by phone: (580) 224-9600.