When it comes to oral health, we all get a little bit nervous when the “C” word is mentioned. That’s right. Cancer. Oral cancer to be specific. Oral cancer, also called mouth cancer, encompasses cancer of the lips, teeth, tongue, gums, and any part of the oral cavity.
In fact, oral cancer has a higher mortality rate than some of the more widely publicized cancers such as cervical cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The reason for this is that oral cancer is typically diagnosed late. Just another reason to make sure to schedule that bi-yearly trip to the dentist!
We know, those are some scary numbers. Now the good news: Mouth cancer is easy to detect with regular check-ups, curable if treated at an early stage and, most importantly, highly preventable.
We at RADIUS genuinely care about the health and wellness of you and your family. To that end, we’d like to offer ways to reduce your risk of contracting mouth cancer.
Let’s start with basic symptoms of mouth cancer to watch out for:
MOUTH CANCER SYMPTOMS:
- Mouth sores that don’t heal (be sure vthese sores aren’t canker sores, which typically heal within two weeks)
- Red or white patches anywhere inside the mouth (Not sure of the difference between these and canker sores? See images of both here.)
- Pain in or around the mouth
- Lumps in or around the mouth
- Loose teeth
- Persistent ear pain
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Halitosis (a fancy word for consistently bad breath)
Now that we’ve covered the symptoms, let’s talk about how to avoid getting mouth cancer in the first place. Here are our TOP TEN TIPS to help prevent mouth cancer:
TEN TIPS TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF MOUTH CANCER
- REGULARLY CHECK IN WITH YOUR DENTIST AND DOCTOR. Make sure to have an annual check-up with your doctor and visit your dentist every six months. Additionally, if you have any of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor or dentist immediately. Although some of them may also indicate other, less serious, conditions, it is important to be vigilant:
- DO NOT SMOKE. This is an obvious one. For those of you who smoke, we understand how difficult it is to quit. Here’s the thing though, four million people die worldwide each year from smoking-related illness. It is the cause of 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. It’s no joke and it is one of the foremost causes of oral cancers. As an added incentive to quit, when you smoke, you make everyone in your immediate environment more at risk for cancer as well, including your pets. Don’t kill puppies.
- BEWARE OF IMBIBING TOO MUCH. No one’s telling you to cancel your wine and cheese night, but it’s important to be wary of consistently drinking too much. People who drink 3.5 or more drinks a day are 2-3 times more likely to develop oral cancer.
- PROTECT THE LIPS! Don’t forget that your lips are sensitive to sun exposure just like the rest of the skin. It’s worth investing in a lip balm or lipstick with a SPF 30 or higher and apply regularly if you are out in the sun. Due to eating, drinking, and licking our lips it is easy to wipe away that protection. We’ll also caution that using those LED whitening products that occasionally burn your lips may not be the healthiest idea.
- PRACTICE SAFE SEX. HPV contracted primarily from unsafe oral sex is THE LEADING CAUSE of oral cancer. If you are not in a monogamous partnership where both you and your partner have been tested, we highly recommend precautionary practices in intimate moments. If you have teenagers, make sure that they’re aware of the risks as well. It’s better to have a few minutes of a really uncomfortable conversation than deal with your child battling a lifelong and potentially life-ending disease. If it’s available to you and your loved ones, we also recommend the HPV vaccine. It’ll protect you from oral cancer, cervical cancer, and penile cancer among others.
- EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGGIES! You might tell your kids to eat their broccoli, but are you eating yours? According to the American Cancer Society, a diet that is low in fruits and vegetables will make you more susceptible to oral cancer.
- KNOW YOUR FAMILY HISTORY. If a family member has had oral cancer, you are more likely to contract it. Worse, you are more likely to contract early onset oral cancer. Certain inherited genetic mutations such as Fanconi Anemia and Dyskeratosis congenita will also make you more at risk.
- KNOW YOUR OWN HEALTH. Any time your immune system is not healthy, you are more at risk for contracting piggyback illnesses. Particularly now, with the health scare over COVID-19, it is critical not only maintain your health but reduce risk factors for other diseases.
- EXERCISE A LITTLE EXTRA CAUTION IF YOU ARE A MAN OR IF YOU ARE OVER 40. Historically, the rate of oral cancer has been highest among men over the age of 40. That said, if you’re not in that category, that does not mean you are not at risk. Due to the pervasiveness of HPV, the fastest growing rate of oral cancer is in non-smokers under the age of 50.
- PRACTICE DAILY DENTAL HYGIENE PRACTICES. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, maintain good oral hygiene practices. Floss your teeth at least once a day, brush at least twice a day, and visit your dentist once every six months for a good clean. Make sure you are using healthy, organic products (you are putting them in your mouth after all!). Check out our RADIUS family-friendly and organic products!
We know that it’s not a fun topic to talk about, but it’s important to be aware of the risk factors so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe. We at RADIUS are here to support you in your journey to maintaining a healthy and cancer-free mouth!