Approximately 49,750 people will be diagnosed with oral cavity and oropharynx cancers this year. Regular dental visits can help detect such cancers early, and changing a few potentially harmful habits may also help reduce a person’s chances of developing them. At Artisan Dental your preventive care examinations include an Oral Cancer Screening.
- Gender: Men are twice more likely to get oral cancer. The American Cancer Society attributes this to higher rates of alcohol and tobacco use by men, but says more men of a younger age are being diagnosed with HPV-related forms of oral cancer.
- Age: Most people who are diagnosed with oral cancer are 55 or older, according to the American Cancer Society. HPV-related oral cancers, however, are often diagnosed in people who are younger.
- Tobacco: Whether you smoke it or chew it, tobacco use increases your risk dramatically. Smoking can cause oral cancer, as well as cancer in other parts of the body. Pipe smokers are also at a higher risk for developing cancer in their lips. Smokeless tobacco, like chew, can lead to many issues in your mouth, the most serious being cancer of the cheeks, gums, and lips.
- Alcohol: According to the American Cancer Society, 7 of 10 oral cancer patients are heavy drinkers. Heavy drinking, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is an average of two drinks a day or more for men and an average of more than one drink a day for women. If you are a heavy drinker and a heavy smoker, your chances of developing oral cancer increase significantly.
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): The sexually transmitted disease is now associated with about 9,000 cases of head and neck cancer (specifically those occurring at the back of the tongue, in or around the tonsils) diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the CDC. People who are diagnosed with HPV-related head and neck cancer tend to be younger and nonsmokers. People with HPV-positive cancers have a lower risk of death or recurrence, even though these cancers are often diagnosed at a later stage because it develops in difficult-to-detect areas.
- Sunlight: People who have jobs working outside are more prone to developing lip cancer and should use UV protection.
- Diet: Poor nutrition also may put you at risk for developing oral cancer. A diet low in fruits and vegetables may increase your chance of developing oral cancer, so add more color to your plate!
USA Today (4/7, Bowerman) reported that according to ADA spokesperson Dr. Maria Lopez Howell, waking up with headaches, a sore jaw, sensitive teeth, or finding fractures in teeth could be signs of bruxism, which may be attributed to stress, anxiety, and sleeping disorders. A recent study in The Journal of the American Dental Association also suggests that teeth grinding is associated with alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco use. Dr. Howell advises seeing a dentist to discuss possible solutions, which may include using a mouthguard at night to protect teeth. “Bruxism is a condition that needs to be treated by a dentist with a night guard or splint,” she said. “This actually involves the joint; we are protecting the joint and the teeth, and it needs to be done with experience and knowledge of that whole chewing complex.”