What Can You and Dentists Do About Your Risk of Developing Oral Cancer?

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Oral cancer is not one of the most well-known or frequently diagnosed cancers, but still affects and kills thousands of people in Canada and the United States every year. Your dentist in Auburn Bay is committed to helping you to avoid the development of cancer and, if cancer develops, to get effective treatment as quickly as possible. Your dentist in Mahogany does this in several ways, including by giving you essential information and performing VELscope screening in Mahogany, AB.

What are the risk factors for oral cancer?

Oral cancers develop as the result of mutations in the DNA of cells on tissues in the mouth. Those mutations alter the cells’ normal schedule according to which they divide and die. Rather than dying on schedule, those mutations cause the cells to keep on growing, dividing, and accumulating. That rampant growth and accumulation results in the formation of tumours that can spread in your mouth and beyond.

Research into the causes of those genetic mutations that lead to the development of oral cancers is ongoing. Precisely what causes those mutations in the flat, thin cells lining your lips and mouth is not well understood. Having said that, several risk factors for the development of mouth cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco in cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, pipes, snuff
  • Excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption
  • Excessive and prolonged exposure to sunlight and other ultraviolet radiation
  • A suppressed immune system
  • The presence of the virus HPV (human papillomavirus)

Risk factors are not things that themselves cause oral cancer, but their presence does seem to increase the risk that someone will develop oral cancer.

How to prevent the development of mouth cancer

Research has not discovered or proven any specific ways to prevent the development of oral cancer, though that is a topic of ongoing research. Among the best strategies for minimizing the risk of developing oral cancer is to modify your behaviour to address the risk factors listed above. Here are four recommendations for reducing your personal risk of developing oral cancers:

  • Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 different chemicals. Over 250 of those chemicals are known health hazards, including at least 69 known carcinogens. To avoid exposing the cells in your mouth to those harmful chemicals and carcinogens, quit smoking and, if you don’t smoke, don’t start.
  • Drink only in moderation. Excessive consumption of alcohol irritates the cells in your mouth. That irritation can render those cells vulnerable to cancer. When irritated and damaged cancer cells try to repair themselves, those repair efforts could contribute to DNA changes that might result in oral cancer. The irritation caused by excessive drinking may also allow harmful chemicals and carcinogens (such as those contained in tobacco smoke) to penetrate the cells in your mouth and digestive tract.
  • Protect your lips from the sun. There are three simple steps you can take to reduce the amount of time your lips are exposed to sunlight, a known risk factor for the development of oral cancers: stay in the shad as much as possible; wear a wide-brimmed that casts a shadow over your mouth; and wear lip balms that include sunscreen.
  • See your dentist in Copperfield regularly. Is this tip unexpected compared to the first three suggestions for preventing the development of mouth cancer? It shouldn’t be. During every regular dental checkup, your dentist performs a complete assessment of all the tissues in your mouth to identify any apparent signs of irregular cells that may indicate the presence of oral cancer. Many dentists also specifically screen for the presence of oral cancer using the VELscope Oral Cancer Screening system that identifies irregular cells in your mouth using special blue light. Oral cancer screening in Mahogany, AB using VELscope is accomplished in less than one minute without any pain, discomfort, invasive procedure, or requirement for preparation.

Just how important is seeing a dentist near me to dealing with the risk of oral cancer? Early identification of the risk or presence of oral cancer is essential to protecting your health. If oral cancers are detected early — while contained within your mouth — there are more and more effective treatment options available. If oral cancer is not detected until after it has spread beyond your mouth, positive outcomes are more difficult to achieve and survival rates shrink.

Get in touch with Mahogany Dental Wellness and let the caring professionals on our team help you manage your risks of oral cancer, including by performing regular VELscope screening near you.