April 12, 2018
On average, one person dies every hour from oral cancer in the United States.
This year, an estimated 51,500 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in America.
If we had our way, no one would ever get this awful disease. Since we can’t control who gets oral cancer, we want you to know what you can do to reduce your risk of developing it … and how you can increase your odds of surviving it if you do.
Appalachian Dental Care cares about you and your oral health. To learn more about how we can help you, call our office in Boone, NC at 828-355-5673.
Now, in honor of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, let’s discuss some ways you can fight this dreaded disease.
1. Avoid or Quit Tobacco
The best thing you could do for your oral health would be to avoid tobacco completely. Tobacco raises your risk of getting cavities, gum disease, and — yes — oral and other kinds of cancer.
While smoking is the most common form of tobacco use, any kind of tobacco will raise your risk of oral cancer. In fact, using smokeless tobacco is a bigger risk factor for some forms of oral cancer than smoking. (Using dip 8-10 times per day can expose you to as much nicotine as 30-40 cigarettes.)
Researchers have found more than 70 known cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco products. So, it probably won’t surprise you that your risk of oral cancer increases with the more tobacco you use and the longer you have been a tobacco user.
Unfortunately, quitting tobacco is a difficult thing for most people to do. That’s why it’s important to have support as you try to improve your oral health. A good place to start is by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
2. Avoid or Limit Alcohol
Having a beer from time to time or a glass of wine with a meal occasionally isn’t likely to increase your risk of oral cancer. But heavy consumption of alcohol (21 drinks or more per week) is considered the second leading cause of oral cancer, behind tobacco use.
Lower levels of alcohol can still be dangerous, especially if you use alcohol and tobacco products. Alcohol has a tendency to leave your mouth dry. When your mouth is dehydrated, the soft tissues will absorb the chemicals in tobacco products (including the ones that cause cancer) more quickly.
There is some good news, however. Quitting alcohol and tobacco use will reduce your risk of oral cancer. Some studies suggest that your risk can be the same as a non-drinker and non-smoker within 10 years.
3. Make Regular Visits to Our Office
Being proactive is the best thing you can do for your health, oral and overall. It’s why health experts encourage us to eat healthy, exercise, and have regular medical check-ups.
For your oral health, being proactive means making routine dental visits with professional cleanings and thorough examinations. We look for signs of tooth decay and gum disease, but we’re also looking for anything out of the ordinary.
In the case of oral cancer, those symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Lumps in your neck or the soft tissues of your mouth
- Patches of discolored tissue (may be red, white, or a combination of both)
- Chronic hoarseness or a constant sore throat
- Sores that don’t seem to heal and may bleed easily
- Trouble swallowing or chewing
We want you to know the symptoms, too. If you notice any of them between dental visits, we encourage you to make an appointment with your doctor to find out if you should be tested.
People diagnosed with oral cancer have an 80 to 90 percent survival rate when their cancer is discovered in the early stages. The survival rate drops to 57 percent when oral cancer is detected in the late stages.
Make an Appointment Soon
Routine dental checkups along with your good daily oral hygiene habits are the best way for you to keep your mouth healthy. We hope you agree that your visits aren’t just about fighting gum disease and tooth decay. They might be about fighting something much bigger.
All statistics are from the Oral Cancer Foundation.