April is oral cancer awareness month, so it’s a great time to be extra vigilant about your mouth and tooth health. Oral cancer is a common occurrence with over 200,000 cases in the US each year, the main sign being a growing, red or white sore that develops anywhere in the mouth, lips, cheeks, or tongue. While treatment such as surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy are effective for this type of cancer, there are active steps you can take to prevent it.
Avoid tobacco use
It’s no secret that tobacco is bad for your health, but did you know that it also directly affects your mouth and teeth? Tobacco can cause ulcers that then lead to cancer, and smokeless tobacco is known to kill off genes that protect against cancer. In fact, 85% of all head and neck cancer, including oral cancer, are caused by tobacco use.
Protect your lips from the sun
Oral cancer can occur in your lips as well. Protect against it by applying chapstick or lip balm with SPF in it. Avoid excessive sun exposure overall, as well as tanning beds. Your lips can get sunburned as well as the rest of your skin, so they are no exception to following the rules of staying safe and smart in the sun. In addition, peak hours of sunshine are typically 10am-2pm, so if you are outside during these hours, make sure to reapply lip balm with sunscreen and wear a hat to shield your face from the sun.
Get your HPV Vaccine
An individual can get oral cancer from HPV, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. About 70% of oral cancer cases in the US are caused by HPV, with about 11,600 Americans each year being diagnosed with HPV-related head and neck cancers. Men are three times as likely than women to get an HPV-related cancer. While of course not all HPV manifests into oral cancer, it’s smart to practice safe sexual encounters as well as get your HPV shot to lower your risk.
See your dentist regularly
Most importantly, practice healthy hygiene habits by not only brushing and flossing daily but also seeing your dentist twice a year. Dentists are often the ones who detect growths and other issues early on, and they may be the one to notice oral cancer on your mouth or lips. Stephens Dentistry is dedicated to providing high quality care to all patients and will happily screen you for oral cancer. If you are seeking a highly skilled dentist in Evanston that can submit claims to PPO, call us today to schedule an appointment. We look forward to hearing from you!