Can You Prevent Oral Cancer?
There are many risk factors that can increase your chances of developing oral cancer. Although prevention isn’t always possible, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. Making changes to your lifestyle, dental hygiene habits, and diet can all help with oral cancer prevention. At Lifetime Family Dental, we want our patients to understand how to prevent all types of dental health problems, including oral cancer.
Six Oral Cancer Prevention Tips
1: Avoid Tobacco Products
One of the most significant risk factors for oral cancer is tobacco use. Chewing tobacco and smoking cigarettes negatively affect your oral health in numerous ways, including making your mouth more vulnerable to periodontitis. Quitting tobacco significantly lowers your risk of oral cancer and improves your oral health even if you have been using tobacco products for years.
2: Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Alcohol can affect your teeth in several ways and drinking in excess increases your risk of oral cancer. A combination of alcohol and tobacco use puts you at even greater risk. To help reduce your risk, make sure to drink in moderation or avoid alcohol entirely. The CDC’s guidelines for drinking in moderation recommend two drinks or less a day for men, and one drink or less a day for women.
3: Get the HPV Vaccine
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections can affect the mouth and throat, leading to certain oral cancers. The best way to reduce your risk of infection-related oral cancer is to get the HPV vaccine.
4: Protect Your Lips from the Sun
Too much sun exposure can cause skin cancer, including cancer of the lips, due to ultraviolet radiation. The best way to prevent lip cancer is to use a lip balm with SPF and a hat with a wide brim when outdoors. You can reduce your risk of other skin cancers by using sunscreen and limiting your sun exposure, especially in the middle of the day.
5: Eat a Healthy Diet
A poor diet, especially if combined with poor oral hygiene, makes it harder for your mouth to protect itself from harmful bacteria. Certain foods help prevent oral cancer by strengthening your immune system and oral health.
For a healthy mouth, your diet should be full of the following nutrients:
- Antioxidants found in blueberries, pecans, dark chocolate, and other foods
- Glucosinolates found in vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
- Vitamin C from citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, or grapefruit
- Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and walnuts
- Vitamin D from dairy and fish
6: Don’t Skip Your Dental Checkups
The earlier oral cancer is caught, the higher the survival rate. In some cases, oral cancer can be curable if it is treated before it can spread, which is why early detection is so important. The best way to catch oral cancer early on is to attend your regular dental checkups.
While examining your mouth, your dentist will check for signs of oral cancer. Professional teeth cleanings also keep your mouth healthy, lowering your risk of oral cancer. Make sure to monitor your oral health between checkup appointments and notify your dentist if you notice any new changes or symptoms.
What does oral cancer look like?
Some risks for oral cancer are unavoidable, such as age and genetics. Even if you take all the steps necessary to prevent oral cancer, it’s still important to watch for warning signs. Keep an eye on your lips, tongue, gums, tonsils, and other areas of your mouth and throat for symptoms of oral cancer.
Mouth and throat cancer symptoms include:
- Persistent sore throat
- White or red patches on the inside of your mouth
- Lip sores that don’t go away
- Mouth, ear, or tongue pain
- A lump inside your mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
Dental Checkups in Gilbert
Regular dental checkups are essential for oral cancer prevention. The compassionate team at Lifetime Family Dental provides thorough, gentle cleanings and exams that help prevent cavities, gum disease, oral cancer, and many other dental health problems. If you’re due for an exam, please schedule an appointment by calling 480-558-4331 today.