Oral cancer is treatable if it’s caught early on, but unfortunately many patients don’t notice the symptoms until it’s too late. Because of this, the Oral Cancer Foundation predicts that oral cancer will cause 9,750 deaths this year in the United States alone.

Our Grand Rapids, MI family dentist offers oral cancer screenings as part of your routine dental checkup. Between appointments, here are 5 things you can do to help prevent oral cancer. Please contact us today if you have any additional questions or concerns regarding oral cancer prevention.

Preventing Oral Cancer

1. Quit smoking.

Cigarettes are known to cause lung cancer, but did you know they’re one of the leading oral cancer causes 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 or snuff. If you haven’t already kicked your tobacco habit, this is a good time to start: 75% of oral cancer patients 50 and older have been tobacco users.

2. Avoid alcohol.

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. Use sun protection.

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 family history.

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 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 the HPV vaccine.

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. Ritzema 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.

While you can make lifestyle changes to avoid oral cancer, the only way to stay safe is to see our Grand Rapids, MI family dentist for regular oral cancer screenings. To schedule your appointment, call Complete Health Dentistry at (616) 458-7267.