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Protecting Your Oral Health: Strategies for Preventing and Detecting Oral Cancer

Did you know that the dentists and hygienists at Anchor Dental screen each patient for oral cancer every time you come in for a visit?


Oral cancer is a serious health concern and early detection is key to a successful outcome. While checking out the condition of your teeth and gums during a routine exam, we also look for signs that might indicate other developing health problems, including early signs of cancer or precancerous conditions that are indicated by abnormal cell growth of the mouth, lips, tongue, or throat – every patient, every visit.

 

Risk factors for oral cancer are many and varied.


Age. While oral cancer can occur at any age, individuals over 45 face a higher risk, with those over 60 having the highest incidence.


Smoking and tobacco: Smoking and using cannabis or tobacco products, such as cigarettes, snuff, chewing tobacco, and smokeless tobacco, significantly increase the risk, especially when combined with high alcohol consumption.


Alcohol consumption: The amount and duration of alcohol consumption both contribute to the risk of oral cancers.


HPV: Research has linked HPV infection to oral cancers. The HPV vaccine can provide protection if one is not already infected.


Gender: Men are more susceptible than women, although the gender gap is narrowing.

Diet: A diet low in fruits and vegetables increases the risk of oral cancer, as these foods are believed to have a protective factor.


Poor oral health: Studies indicate that individuals with poor oral health have an elevated risk of developing oral cancer.


Sun exposure: Prolonged exposure to the sun increases the risk of lip cancer.

 

Early detection is key.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of oral cancer is key to early detection, and there are signs and symptoms you can look for in the mirror. Watch out for white or dark red patches in your mouth, on your lips, or tongue, as well as any lumps or changes in the texture or color of mouth tissues. Other indicators include bleeding or numbness in the mouth, persistent sores or patches that don't heal, difficulty swallowing, and changes in taste or tongue sensation.


If you notice any of these, it's essential to consult with your dentist promptly. Give our office a call and we will take a look and help you figure out next steps.

 

Prevention

Preventing oral cancer involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits and taking proactive health measures. Regular dental check-ups are a very important part of this, as they provide an opportunity for early detection.


Here are some key preventive measures you can take:


Quit tobacco. If you use tobacco products, quitting is the single most effective way to reduce your risk of oral cancer. Seek assistance from your dentist, who can guide you through the process and recommend tools to help you quit.


Limit alcohol consumption. Heavy alcohol consumption, particularly when combined with smoking, significantly increases the risk of oral cancer. Moderation is key to reducing this risk.


Protect yourself from the sun. Prolonged exposure of the lips to the sun can contribute to the development of oral cancer. Use UV protective lip balms and limit direct sun exposure to minimize this risk.


Maintain a healthy diet. A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides essential nutrients that support overall health, including oral health.


Make self-exams part of your routine. Be proactive in monitoring your oral health. Regularly check your mouth for any signs or symptoms and report any changes to your dentist promptly.

 

At Anchor Dental, we believe that by adopting a proactive approach, including regular checkups and screenings, we can contribute to early detection and, ultimately, successful outcomes in the fight against oral cancer.

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