April 8, 2019
You’ve been told all your life to take care of your teeth and gums. Cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease are all dental problems you don’t want to have to deal with, but what about oral cancer? Did you learn much about that growing up? Did anyone tell you that screenings are one of the best ways to detect early signs of oral cancer and that your dentist can check you during a regular exam? If oral cancer screenings are a new concept for you, let a dentist in Southlake explain their importance and what you can do to avoid increasing your chances of developing this deadly disease.
Why Be Proactive with Oral Cancer Screenings?
According to The American Cancer Society, it is estimated that 53,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with some type of oral cancer in 2019. For those whose diagnoses are not caught in the early stages, the likelihood they’ll be alive in 5 years is around 50%.
Oral cancer can develop anywhere within your mouth (lips, tongue, cheeks, gums). It can also be found in the throat, which is also known as oropharyngeal cancer. Not only are your mouth and throat key to maintaining a healthy body, but they give us the ability to speak clearly, eat, and even breathe.
Many of the symptoms associated with oral cancer may not appear until it has developed and spread, making it extremely difficult and even impossible to treat. However, if caught early, your chance for successful treatment drastically increases to an estimated 80%. Oral cancer screenings performed by your dentist are one of the best options for early detection, and your dentist is your best line of defense in the battle against oral cancer.
What Should I Avoid that Might Increase My Chances of Oral Cancer?
Not all risk factors are unavoidable. Some are simply genetic, which you have no control over. Oral cancer is mostly found in mean over the age of 50, but certain behaviors and practices have led to cases in both men and women under the age of 40. A few general facts include:
- The typical age for diagnosis is 62 with an estimated 2/3 of the individuals diagnosed being over the age of 55.
- Lip cancer is much more common among people who work outdoors and who have long exposure to the sun.
- Unhealthy diets may also be a link in the increased chances of oral cancer.
Apart from age and gender, there are some lifestyle habits that heighten your chances of developing the disease. These include:
- Tobacco usage: According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, 80% of people with oral cancer smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco.
- Excessive drinking: Close to 70% are heavy drinkers, and if the person smokes, the risk grows higher.
Individuals who have the human papillomavirus (HPV) or autoimmune disorders such as diabetes or HIV are also at higher risk of being diagnosed with oral cancer.
To lower your chances and maintain a healthier life, it’s best if you avoid tobacco altogether, limit your alcohol intake, and avoid too much exposure to the sun.
Instead of waiting until it’s too late, make it a point to schedule an appointment with your dentist for an oral cancer screening. Catching the disease in its early stages is the only way you’ll be able to treat it successfully.
About the Author
Dr. J. Lee Pettigrew, DDS, PA, earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Dallas Baptist College before going on to earn his DDS degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Understanding that people would rather avoid a dental problem, Dr. Pettigrew and his team stress the importance of preventative dentistry. Regular cleanings and oral cancer screenings can keep your oral health on track, stopping any dental issues before they start! If you are looking for “a dentist near me” who has your health and best interest in mind, visit our website or call (817) 481-4888.
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