When it comes to cancer, most people think of common cancers like breast or lung cancer. However, did you know that dental-related cancers are actually quite common? In fact, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, over 54,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year alone. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself and your family from these potentially deadly diseases. Keep reading to learn five ways you can do just that.
1. Visit the Dentist Regularly
One of the best ways to protect yourself from dental-related cancers is to visit the dentist regularly. Your dentist will be able to spot any early warning signs of cancer, which can make treatment much more successful. So be sure to schedule an appointment at least once every six months. If you have concerns about your oral health between dentist visits, don’t hesitate to call your dentist. They’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
And remember, this does not just apply to adults. According to NCI, 16,850 children and adolescents under 19 were diagnosed with cancer in 2020. So, be sure to take your kids to the dentist for regular checkups, too.
2. Quit Smoking
Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for all types of cancer, including dental-related cancers. According to the CDC, individuals who smoke are six times more likely to get oral cancer than those who do not. If you smoke cigarettes or use any other tobacco products, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health.
There are a variety of resources available to help you quit smoking, so there’s no excuse not to try. Your doctor can likely advise you or refer you to a smoking cessation program. There are also many over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Of course, quitting smoking is easier said than done. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this battle. There are plenty of people who have successfully quit smoking, and you can too.
3. Brush and Floss Daily
Brushing and flossing your teeth may not seem like it would do much to prevent cancer. However, good oral hygiene habits can actually reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer. That’s because brushing and flossing help remove bacteria and plaque from your teeth, lowering your risk of infection.
In order to ensure that you are brushing your teeth effectively, dentists recommend using a toothbrush with soft bristles. You should also be sure to position your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle towards the gum line and use gentle circular motions. As for flossing, be sure to do it at least once a day.
If you’re unsure how to floss properly, your dentist can show you the correct way to do it. And if you find that traditional floss is difficult to use, there are plenty of alternatives on the market, such as water flossers or floss picks.
4. Do Not Ignore Oral Health Problems
If you have any oral health problems, it’s important to see a dentist right away. This is especially true if you have any symptoms of oral cancer, such as a sore that does not heal, a lump in the throat, or trouble swallowing. Ignoring these problems will only make them worse and increase your risk of developing cancer.
Of course, it can be easy to ignore oral health problems, especially if they’re not causing any pain. But it’s important to remember that many dental problems do not cause pain until they are quite advanced. So, if you notice anything out of the ordinary, be sure to see a dentist as soon as possible.
5. Invest in Dental Insurance
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, dental out-of-pocket expenses (which represented 40% of dental expenditures) rose by 1.8 percent in 2015. This increase is likely due to the rising cost of dental care, as well as the fact that many people do not have dental insurance.
If you don’t have dental insurance, now is the time to invest in a policy. Dental insurance can help offset the cost of preventive care, which can ultimately save you money in the long run. And if you do need to receive treatment for dental-related cancer, your insurance will likely cover at least a portion of the cost.
Dental-related cancers are on the rise, so it’s important to take steps to protect yourself and your family. Be sure to visit the dentist regularly but most importantly, if you notice any changes in your mouth, see a dentist right away.