April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month—a perfect time to remind ourselves of the importance of taking preventive measures and learning more about this serious illness. Each year, an estimated 53,000 people in the US are diagnosed with oral cancer, yet many are still unaware of its most common signs or how to prevent it. By simply brushing up on your knowledge about oral cancer and understanding which risk factors can lead to a greater likelihood for developing it, you can be one step ahead toward maintaining your health and well-being. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some helpful ways you can reduce your risk for oral cancer as well as discuss symptoms you can watch out for.
What is Oral Cancer and Who is at Risk?
Oral cancer refers to any form of cancer that develops in the mouth or throat. It can develop in the lips, tongue, cheeks, hard palate (roof of the mouth), salivary glands, or tonsils. Although anyone can develop oral cancer, certain factors may increase a person’s risk such as age (over 40), smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, history of sun exposure (lip cancers), human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, and many other diseases that weaken the immune system.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Developing Oral Cancer
The best way to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer is by avoiding risky behaviors such as:
- smoking tobacco products or using chewing tobacco
- limiting your use of alcohol
- protecting yourself from UV rays
- minimizing your contact with HPV through safe sexual practices
Now, if you aren’t engaging in risky behaviors, there are some additional steps you can take to reduce your risk of oral cancer, like:
- wearing a lip balm with SPF 15 or greater while outdoors
- getting enough rest each night
- eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
- flossing once daily
- visiting your dentist regularly for routine exams and professional cleanings
What are the Signs of Oral Cancer to Look Out For?
It’s important to be aware of any changes in your mouth or throat so you can seek medical care, if needed. Symptoms may include sores or discoloration that won’t go away after two weeks, pain or difficulty swallowing, voice changes lasting more than two weeks, a numbness in any part of the face or neck area or a persistent earache. If you experience any of these symptoms for an extended period of time it’s important to see your dentist right away – they’ll be able to provide further testing if necessary.
The Benefits Of Regular Check-Ups With Your Dentist
Did you know that regular check-ups with your dentist go beyond just keeping your teeth clean? In fact, they can play a crucial role in preventing more serious conditions, such as oral cancers. Your dentist is specially trained to identify potential warning signs that could lead to a diagnosis, catching them early on can significantly improve outcomes. So, don’t just rely on recognizing warning signs yourself, schedule those regular check-ups to ensure you’re taking care of your overall dental health.
Healthy Diet Habits That Help Prevent Oral Cancer
Your diet not only affects your overall health, but it can also play a significant role in preventing specific illnesses such as oral cancer. By adopting a healthy diet, you can effectively lower the inflammation levels in your body, which can help reduce your overall risk. From indulging in fresh fruits and vegetables, packed with essential vitamins and minerals, to consuming lean proteins and high-fiber items, these healthy habits can significantly improve your nutritional profile and protect you from future medical issues.
Oral cancer is an important topic to be aware and knowledgeable of. Hopefully this post has shed some light on what to look for, ways you can reduce your risk for developing it, and why regular check-ups with your dentist are beneficial in detecting signs early on. Eating healthy, lifestyle choices, and awareness of signs should all be taken into consideration for maintaining the health of your mouth.
At the end of the day it’s always a good idea to do something to take care of yourself. Practicing proper oral hygiene and scheduling a dental check up today could help you protect yourself from developing more severe symptoms down the line. Do yourself a favor and secure that appointment – it only takes one phone call or visit and it could make all the difference!