When referring to a cancer that is largely preventable, oral cancer tops the list. This is due to the fact that 90% of all oral cancer diagnoses are linked to lifestyle choices. While alcohol consumption, HPV and poor diet all contribute to your risk for oral cancer, tobacco use continues to be the leading cause. Tobacco use includes cigarettes and smokeless tobacco!
If you are a smoker, you may be well aware of the damage it is doing to your lungs and general health. However, you may overlook the direct threat your cigarettes are posing to your mouth. Tooth discoloration is certainly an unwanted complication, but oral cancer can be a deadly consequence. Smokers are three times more likely to develop mouth cancer than non-smokers. Smoking can turn your saliva into a toxic solution that damages the cells inside your mouth and can eventually turn them into cancerous cells.
Think your safe if you use tobacco but don’t smoke? Think again. While you may be doing your lungs a favor by opting for smokeless tobacco, you are still inviting a serious risk into your mouth. In fact, smokeless tobacco contains twice as much nicotine than a cigarette and a single can of chewing tobacco can release as much nicotine into your body as 60 cigarettes! Nicotine is known as a vasoconstrictor; therefore it restricts proper blood flow that your oral tissues need to thrive. It can also make it more difficult for your body to heal itself if you have a sore or wound inside the mouth. Research also suggests that second-hand smoke is a probable cause of mouth cancer.
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, so take a close look at your lifestyle choices and visit your dentist for an oral cancer screening. At Mitzi Morris, DMD, we conduct oral cancer screenings at your routine dental checkups. It is a painless screening that only takes a few minutes. If you learn one fact about oral cancer, know that detecting it early can save your life. Persistent mouth sores, numbness, swelling or other changes in your oral tissues can be your first warning sign to a very serious cancer. If you decide to kick your tobacco habit, you can reduce your risk for oral cancer by more than a third!