At Knoxville Smiles, our dentists, hygienists, and the entire dental team care about you. We hope you live a long happy and healthy life. Because most people do not realize that anyone might develop cancer of the head, neck or mouth, we hope this blog helps motivate you to have regular oral cancer screenings by coming in for your regularly scheduled hygiene and checkup appointments. We also hope it causes you to think about lifestyle choices that increase your risk of oral cancer.
Here are the primary factors that raise the risk of developing oral cancer.
Tobacco Use — Up to 75% of mouth and throat cancers have been associated with smoking and chewing tobacco. The direct cause has been demonstrated to be carcinogens in the tobacco, and risk is directly correlated with the amount of tobacco used and for how long. If you smoke and are also a heavy drinker of alcohol, the risk of cancer increases more.
Alcohol Use — About 70% of people diagnosed with oral cancer are heavy drinkers. This risk is higher for people who use both alcohol and tobacco. For people who smoke and drink heavily, the risk of oral cancer may be as high as 100% more than the risk for people who do not smoke or drink.
Sun Exposure — Cancer on the lips and face is also commonly associated with sun exposure. Applying sunscreen lotion or SPF lip balm will lower the risk.
HPV — The HPV virus and other immunological disorders have been associated with increased risk. In fact, the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, otherwise healthy, nonsmoking individuals due to the connection between oral cancer and the HPV virus. Although the incidence of HPV related oral cancer is increasing, individuals with oral cancers linked to HPV usually have a good prognosis. So, what we are saying is, don’t be scared; be screened, diagnosed and treated.
Periodontal Disease – Several studies indicate an increased risk of oral tumors or precancerous lesions in the presence of gum disease, likely due to chronic irritation of periodontal gum and bone tissues. Regular dental cleanings and prompt clinical treatment of gum inflammation will eliminate this risk factor.
If it has been six months or more since your last check-up and dental cleaning, you are overdue for important preventive oral health care. During these appointments, we will do a thorough examination of your mouth and detect any present symptoms of possible oral cancer. Don’t delay regular dental visits.