Going to the dentist regularly (twice a year for healthy mouths, every 3 months for people with gum disease) is not just great to get a dental cleaning or to prevent cavities, your dentist can also help detect oral cancer early.

The good news about oral cancer is if it’s detected early, it can be treated and cured without evasive surgery; however if the cancer is detected late then that will require evasive surgery which could result in removal of parts of the jaw and/or the tongue. Not only will evasive surgery alter your appearance for the worse it will also affect your daily life such as talking, eating and swallowing. Needless to say it’s important to have regular visits with your dentist.

In between dental checkups it’s important to play an active role in preventing oral cancer.

Here are 5 Ways to Prevent Oral Cancer.

1. Ask for an Oral Cancer Exam From Your Dentist – Not every dentist will automatically conduct an oral exam for oral cancer when you visit them. Oral examinations are not painful and do not take long and sometimes they come for free during your cleaning, so there should not be any excuse to avoid asking for an oral exam.

2. Conduct a Self Examination of Your Mouth at Least Once a Month – A self exam is just as quick and painless as having your dentist conduct an oral exam for you. All you need is a mirror and you can start looking around inside your mouth. A mouth mirror would be preferable for those hard to see areas in the back of the mouth as well as the back and sides of the tongue. When you’re looking around in your mouth, see if there are any red spots, white spots or non healing ulcers. Once the visual part of your exam is complete, start feeling around your neck and jaw area to feel for any unusual lumps, bumps or tender areas. If you see or feel any of the items that were previously mentioned make sure you book an appointment with your dentist right away.

3. Limit Your Exposure to The Sun – When was the last time you applied sunscreen on your lips? If you can’t remember you aren’t alone, a recent study revealed that 63% of sunscreen users don’t protect their lips. Repeated sun exposure to unprotected lips increases your risk of cancer on the lips, especially the lower lip; therefore next time you go buy sunscreen make sure you accompany your purchase with some lip balm or lip sun screen.

4. Always brush and floss your teeth regularly – You should already be doing this regularly, but if you aren’t make sure you brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. When your mouth is unhealthy it reduces your immune system which also prevents your body to fight off potential cancers.

5. Do Not Smoke and Drink Alcohol in Moderation – We all know that smoking is bad for you and it leads to gum disease, yellow teeth and causes all sorts of problems for your mouth. If you are a regular smoker and have not been diagnosed with any sort of oral cancer, it is best to stop now so you can live a healthy and longer life. When discussing alcohol do not binge drink, it is suggested that if you must drink that you only have one to two drinks per day. The more you smoke and drink, the greater your chances of developing oral cancer.

Cancer is a scary word in a lot of people’s vocabularies; however it is important to note that around 75% of oral cancers are linked to lifestyle habits and not due to genetics or other hereditary factors. It is important to change your lifestyle habits for the better so your dental visits are just regular cleanings and checkups.

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