How to Avoid Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer Prevention Dentist Grand Rapids, MI

Depending on your age and risk factors, we may provide an oral cancer screening during the same appointment as your regular dental cleaning and exam. Oral cancer is a deadly disease, but it can be treated if caught early.

Between oral cancer screenings, there are a few lifestyle changes you can make to minimize your risk of developing oral cancer.

Here’s what you need to know to get started.

1.) Avoid Tobacco Products

Cigarettes are known to cause lung cancer. But did you know they’re one of the leading causes of oral cancer as well? Even just smoking the occasional cigar is enough to increase your chances of developing oral cancer.

But non-smokers aren’t automatically in the clear. Tobacco in any form is dangerous, including chewing tobacco. If you haven’t already kicked your tobacco habit, this is a good time to start: 75% of oral cancer patients ages 50 and older have been tobacco users.

2.) Cut Back on Drinking

When it comes to alcohol, the less you drink, the better. Oral cancer is six times more likely to develop in drinkers than in non-drinkers. Studies have linked cirrhosis of the liver as well as dehydration that occurs when drinking to the formation of oral cancer cells.

3.) Always Use SPF

Just as you would apply sunscreen before heading to the beach, you should be protecting your lips as well. Excess sun exposure around your mouth can lead to oral cancer.

Most types of sunscreen that you buy for your body aren’t optimized for use on the lips. To protect against oral cancer, opt for a chapstick with SPF and reapply throughout the day for maximum protection. It also helps to wear a wide-brimmed hat that keeps the sun off your face.

4.) Know Your Genetic Risk Factors

If you have a family history of any type of cancer, you run a higher risk of developing oral cancer. While a family history certainly doesn’t guarantee that you’ll experience oral cancer firsthand, learning about your genetic predispositions can help you make mindful choices regarding your health.

It’s a good idea to bring up your family history during your oral cancer screening, as well. Our Grand Rapids family dentist can advise you about reducing your risk long-term.

5.) Get Vaccinated for HPV

Certain types of human papillomavirus, or HPV, can increase your risk of oral cancer. If you’re eligible, consider getting the HPV vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus altogether, thereby reducing your chances of developing oral cancer.

At your oral cancer screening, Dr. Yun will look for visible abnormalities and probe the mouth to feel for anything unusual. It’s important to be honest with him about your lifestyle so he can work with you to prevent oral cancer.

6.) Get Oral Cancer Screenings

If you’re between the ages of 20 and 39, the American Cancer Society recommends that you get an oral cancer screening every three years. But they recommend annual screenings if you’re age 40 or older.

Regardless of your age, it’s important to remember that each patient is different. If you have several risk factors for oral cancer, Dr. Yun may recommend more frequent screenings as a precaution.

While an oral cancer screening won’t prevent cancer, it will allow us to detect it in its early stages. This gives you the best chance of treating oral cancer before it spreads to the rest of the body.

7.) Check Your Mouth at Home

Examine the inside of your mouth once a month. Look for ulcers, white patches, red patches, or any other abnormalities. If you spot something suspicious, schedule an appointment with our dentist as soon as possible.

Check the following during your self-exam:

  • Roof of your mouth
  • Floor of your mouth
  • Tongue
  • Gums
  • Inside of your cheeks
  • Inside of your lips

Request an Appointment With Dr. Yun

While it’s important to live a healthy lifestyle, the best safeguard against oral cancer is regular oral cancer screenings. Our Grand Rapids dentist will inspect your mouth for any signs of oral cancer and put your mind at ease. To make an appointment with Dr. Suk Jun Yun, call the NorthPointe Family Dental and Implant Center at (616) 288-6134.

This blog post has been updated.