Did you know that you are still at risk for oral cancer even if you don’t use tobacco products? It is regularly referred to as the “silent killer” because the signs are difficult to catch early. As a result, many people do not realize they have it until it is too late. On average, oral cancer takes a life every hour in the United States and appears three times more often than cervical cancer.
Even worse, 66 percent of oral cancer cases are not discovered until the late stages, a period where the five-year survival rate is barely above 20 percent. Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, your dentist wanted to address how his practice is working diligently to catch oral cancer before it is too late.
The Two Biggest Risks of Oral Cancer
Your dentist has probably mentioned in the past how your daily habits can affect not just your oral health but your risk of contracting more serious diseases. If you want to reduce your risk of oral cancer, you will need to consider your oral care habits as well as how often you drink alcohol or use tobacco.
It does not matter what form of tobacco you use; all forms will increase your risk of oral cancer. With that being said, some forms of tobacco will increase cancer more than others. While cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco all dramatically increase your risk, tobacco that makes direct contact carries a 50 percent increase in the risk of developing cheek, gum, and inner lip cancer.
Heavy alcohol use on a frequent basis, especially with tobacco, increases your risk even more, so you will want to reduce it as much as possible.
Why At-Home Care Matters
Another factor associated with oral cancer is your oral hygiene. Poor dental health, especially for people who use tobacco and alcohol, increases your chances of both oral and oropharyngeal cancer significantly.
The best way to protect yourself in between dental visits is to brush twice a day with toothpaste, floss daily, and visit your dentist every six months. What your dentist can find with the technology in his practice may surprise you.
How the VELscope Can Save Your Life
Did you know that dentists are better equipped to discover early signs of disease than even general practitioners? This is because many markers for the early stages of disease can appear in the mouth, and oral cancer is obviously no exception. With the help of a device known as the VELscope, your dentist can view fluorescence signatures in your oral tissue.
The VELscope emits a blue light, causing your oral tissue to light up. The device’s optical filtering allows your dentist to view these signatures clearly during your examination. For example, if there is abnormal tissue, dysplasia, or cancerous lesions present in or around your mouth, they will appear dark green compared to the rest of your tissue, which will appear as a lighter green.
Patients who catch oral cancer in its early stages can see a survival rate of 80 percent and higher, so don’t skip your regular exams. Schedule an appointment with your dentist today!
About the Author
Dr. Benjamin Hornstein screens for oral cancer every time you come in for your regular exam. By visiting him twice a year, Dr. Hornstein acts as your first line of defense against oral cancer and many other diseases. To learn more about his dental exams or practice, contact him at (216) 595-1710 or visit his website.