Did you know that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month? Oral cancer is a surprisingly common disease; more than 50,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in the United States.
Oral cancer may not receive the publicity and awareness of other cancers and diseases, but it should. Consider this: about 25 Americans die every day from oral cancer. To put it another way, that’s more than one person every hour.
Preventative dental care, and keeping up with necessary dental procedures, are just two ways to optimize your family’s oral health. There are other daily habits that can help you avoid serious oral complications. Our team of oral healthcare consultants here at Dr. Dental have put together this article to help you recognize certain risk factors, and to give you of some helpful tips that will increase your chances of oral cancer prevention.
Oral Cancer Risks – What You Need to Know
Despite the prevalence of oral cancer, there are still some misconceptions about the risk factors associated with the disease. While certain behaviors and habits may play a role in the chances of getting oral cancer, certain demographic attributes are equally – if not more – critical in determining your ultimate risk profile.
Two of North America’s leading cancer research groups, the British Columbia Cancer Agency and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reference the leading factors associated with oral cancer:
- Tobacco use. Cigarettes, chewing tobacco, snus, and other tobacco products are directly linked to oral cancer – as well as a host of other health problems.
- Age. Older people are more likely to suffer from oral and other cancers. According to some researchers, specific DNA proteins are responsible for “switching off” otherwise protective cell-cleaning and maintenance processes – and this DNA activity frequently accompanies aging.
- Ultra-violet (UV) light. These particularly harmful rays from the sun are a driving factor for skin cancer (obviously) and are also responsible for oral cancer onset.
- Frequent alcohol consumption. Moderate alcohol intake doesn’t seem to increase the odds of oral cancer, but anything over three drinks daily brings certain risks. Similar to the aging process (see above), heavy alcohol consumption negatively impacts DNA compounds that help regulate cell growth. Without well-regulated DNA mechanisms in place, abnormal cell growth (cancer) can result – including mouth and throat cancer.
- Family history of oral cancer. Genetics and family are the “known unknown” when it comes to oral cancer risks. Doctors, dentists, oral surgeons, and other healthcare professionals realize that family medical history plays a role, but the exact correlation differs from person to person – and family to family.
As you can see, oral cancer risk is a well-blended mix of behavior and biological factors. While some factors are out of your control , such as your age and family medical history. But you can control other factors. Let’s take a look at some things you can do immediately to help prevent oral cancer.
Preventing Oral Cancer – A Proven Plan of Action
Solid oral healthcare promotes overall health and wellbeing and has the additional benefit of reducing oral cancer risks. With that in mind, here are a handful of habits to start following today!
- Brush and floss regularly. It’s the most common suggestion you’ll hear from your dentist (and one we fully endorse at Dr. Dental). Brush and floss your teeth at least twice every day. A clean mouth equates to a more robust immune system – and with it, lowers your cancer risk.
- Say no to tobacco. If you don’t smoke or use smokeless tobacco products, you’re already on the right path. If you do, kick the habit immediately. The toxins and carcinogens in tobacco promote oral cancer, plain and simple.
- Make an effort (literally) to exercise. Exercise boosts immunity and has been shown to decrease certain cancer risk factors, including oral cancer. Join a gym. Workout at home. Go for a daily walk during your lunch hour. Just get moving – it’s one of the best things you can do to prevent oral cancer. One word of caution, if you plan to exercise outdoors, use sunscreen for any activity where you’re outside for more than a few hours (those darn UV rays again).
- Ditch the processed food. Diet is a driver – and preventer – of cancer. Research suggests that sugar (sucrose, fructose, simple carbohydrates, etc.) acts as a “fuel” for oral cancer. Opt instead for whole, natural foods – you’ll feel full faster, and also avoid much of the processed junk that passes for “food” today.
- Visit your dentist. Even if you conduct self-exams for lumps, discoloration, and other mouth issues, your dentist can help detect certain problems – including oral cancer – early. Many dental visits have been literal life-saving events for people with early-stage oral cancer. Schedule your appointment today!
Take the First Step in Smart Oral Healthcare – Stop by Dr. Dental
The more you know about oral cancer, the better equipped you are to avoid the disease. This April, and beyond, we strongly recommend you follow the tips listed above. While no cancer prevention plan is 100% guaranteed, it helps to do everything in your power to tilt the odds in your favor.
One way to start today is scheduling an appointment with Dr. Dental. We have offices located all over the New England region (New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts). For new patients, we offer an exclusive cleaning special – just one of the deals and discounts you can enjoy at Dr. Dental!
Thanks for visiting Dr. Dental. We look forward to seeing you and your family soon!