12Mar

The Chapel Hill General Dentist Explains Why You Might Be at Risk for Oral Cancer

by Dr. Diane Hourigan

Oral Cancer Awareness Month is meant to make people take note of the seriousness of the disease and the need for routine screenings by the Chapel Hill general dentist.

While oral cancer makes up only a small portion of annual cancer cases, it is still a serious problem. Oral cancer cases that are diagnosed in the early stages of development have a significantly improved survival rate — up to 80% after five years.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

The following risk factors can’t be changed, but the Chapel Hill general dentist knows that awareness raises your vigilance so potential problems can be addressed early when treatment options and positive outcomes are greatest.

  • Heredity – There’s sufficient evidence to suggest that the probability of oral cancer can run in families even if no other risk factors like smoking or alcohol use are present.
  • Age– More than 90% of all oral cancers occur in individuals over 40. However, the incidence among younger people has been on the uptick recently, perhaps related to lifestyle behaviors.
  • Race – African Americans have a higher incidence of oral cancer than Caucasians.

The following are risk factors that can and should be addressed:

  • Smoking tobacco use – Smokers are at five to nine times greater risk for developing oral cancer
  • Alcohol– Moderate to heavy drinkers are at three to nine times greater risk; the higher the alcohol content, the greater the risk
  • Diet– A high intake of fruits/vegetables, which are high in antioxidants, has been found to have a protective effect against a variety of cancers, including oral.
  • Chronic sun exposure– Often connected with lip cancers.

As part of your routine oral hygiene, you should closely monitor any changes in your mouth that don’t diminish in a few days, e.g., ulcers, sores, or white or red patches on the tongue. We care about your overall wellness, so our dentist always performs an oral cancer screening as part of your regular check-ups.

Please Contact Us for More Information

We want to do everything possible to keep your oral health and your general health on track. Please contact our office to arrange your next exam, including oral cancer screening by our general dentist.