The Ultimate Oral Cancer Prevention Guide: 13 Ways to Reduce Your Risk
Leading cancer research centers revealed that our risk of developing oral cancer increases with age. Growing old is an inevitable part of life. Luckily, even as we enter our 60s and beyond, there are proactive ways to prevent oral cancer or detect it early.
1. The food you eat is a reflection of your health
Lacking essential nutrients can cause unhealthy changes in your mouth. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that certain fruits and vegetables contain can help boost your immune system and offer protection against diseases, including oral cancers.
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends eating around five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. If you don’t like fruits and vegetables on their own, there are several ways to include them in your diet. Melissa Rifkin, a bariatric dietician at Montefiore Health System in New York City, highly recommends “hiding” fruits and vegetables in meals. “Meaning, you make a pasta dish, toss in berries, broccoli or spinach. Flavor with fruits and vegetables rather than dressings and dips,” she shared during an interview with CBS News. “Freezing fruit is also a great way to enjoy nature’s candy in the evenings, and cauliflower rice is a newer and tastier way to reduce carb intake by replacing it with a vegetable source.”
2. Mind the way you prepare and cook your meals
To maximize the health benefits of fruits and veggies, avoid cooking all of their cancer-fighting properties away. Fresh is best, but if you want to cook your fruits and vegetables, stop once they become tender and while they still have a vibrant color to them. In addition, choose to bake, boil, broil, or steam your food instead of frying. Cooking with vegetable oils can form cancer-causing substances, say experts.
3. Your mouth needs sun protection, too
Spending too much time in the sun not only raises your risk of melanoma, but it also increases your chances of developing lip and oral cavity cancer. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight in the middle of the day, which is when harmful ultraviolet rays are the strongest. If your work includes staying out in the sun for prolonged periods, use a lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and protect your entire face by wearing a wide-brim hat.
4. Save the alcohol for special occasions
Excessive alcohol consumption, especially throughout the years, can irritate your mouth in ways that may lead to oral cancer. The likelihood is twice as high in heavy drinkers who sip on three to four glasses a day, and the odds spike higher if you both drink excessively and smoke.
5. Put down the cigarette
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your mouth and entire body. The more and longer you smoke, the higher your risk of contracting oral cancer. However, if you have been smoking for years, stopping can still reduce your risk significantly.
6. Ditch the urge to chew tobacco
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that over 5.9 million Americans used smokeless tobacco products in 2019. If you quit using smokeless tobacco, you can enjoy the many oral health benefits, including a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. The disadvantages of continuing this habit include tooth loss, extrinsic discoloration, gum disease, and oral cancer.
7. Understand the dangers of secondhand smoke
Even if you don’t smoke or use tobacco products, your chances of developing oral cancer can go up if you always spend time around friends and family who do. Plus, the longer you are exposed to secondhand smoke, the higher your odds of contracting an unwanted disease.
8. Avoid having multiple partners and engaging in unprotected sex
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of common viruses. You can have it in your mouth right now without noticing because in most cases, these common viruses do not cause any issues. In some people, it can trigger changes that lead to cancer. Doctors recommend getting vaccinated for HPV before becoming sexually active. If you already are, you can protect yourself by limiting your number of romantic partners and practicing safe sex.
9. Do not experiment with betel quid
Popular in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and some parts of the Pacific Islands, betel quid consists of areca nut, lime, betel leaves, and sometimes tobacco. “It is used like chewing tobacco and is placed in the mouth, usually between the gum and cheek,” according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI). It is best to avoid the dangerous substance, as “betel quid with tobacco contains nicotine and many harmful, cancer-causing chemicals.”
10. If you wear dentures, make sure they fit properly
The results of a 2014 study revealed that ill-fitting dentures may significantly increase the risk of developing cancer. If your dentures are too loose or do not fit you perfectly, book a consultation with our California dentist so we can assess your oral cavity and create new dentures for you.
11. Establish a fail-proof oral care routine
Remember to brush after every meal and floss at least once a day because good oral care is the foundation of a healthy mouth. Read 10 Oral Hygiene Mistakes to Correct — or Else! and 9 Steps to Achieving Healthy Teeth and Gums All Year Long for more dental care tips.
12. Inspect your mouth at least once a month
Ensure to check your teeth, gums, and entire mouth area in front of a mirror once a month. Keep an eye on ulcers or anything unusual, including red or white patches that persist for three weeks or longer. Examine the inside of your mouth from every angle, not forgetting the roof and floor of your oral cavity, tongue, inner cheeks, and lips. If you see or feel anything suspicious, which may include pimple-like bumps, lumps, tender areas, as well as red, white, or gray patches—visit your Irvine dentist to rule out the possibility of oral cancer.
13. Prioritize bi-annual dental visits
Dental professionals do more than fill cavities, whiten teeth, and remind you to floss. They check everything from the nooks and crannies of your teeth to the bottom of your tongue for growths that might signal oral cancer. Furthermore, they can help diagnose oral cancer and other dental health problems early on, which is when treatments are most effective.
The role of dentists in preventing oral cancer is a crucial one. If you are long overdue for a dental checkup or oral cancer screening, Cunning Dental Group can provide the services you need and more. Contact us today at (855) 328-6646 to schedule an appointment with a top dentist in Southern California.