Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells anywhere in the body. Oral cancer refers to abnormal cell growth in any part of the mouth. Oral cancer refers to cancer cell growth anywhere in the mouth including the lips, cheeks, and tongue.
The early stages of oral cancer may be challenging to recognize because the cancer growths look very similar to sores in the mouth. However, unlike normal sores, cancer growths do not go away in a few days. If you notice a sore that is not getting better after a few days, it’s time to see a dentist.
Causes and Risk Factors
While there is no single reason why oral cancer develops, there are several risk factors that increase the chances of a person developing it. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of oral cancer.
- Use of Tobacco or Cigarette Smoking Cigarettes and other tobacco products contain cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens) which can harm bodily functions in several ways. Studies show a direct link between carcinogens and the growth of cancer cells in the body. Constant exposure of the mouth to these harmful chemicals significantly increases the risk of oral cancer. The best way to reduce your risk is to stop using tobacco altogether.
- Prolonged Exposure to Sunlight Unprotected exposure to sunlight for extended periods of time is directly linked with skin cancer and cancer on the lips. The increase in risk is due to ultraviolet radiation penetrating through the skin which causes abnormalities. In order to protect yourself, always wear sunscreen and lip balm with appropriate SPF protection.
- Heavy Alcohol Consumption Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to oral cancer. Alcoholic beverages are classified as carcinogenic substances which means they have similar harmful risks as tobacco. Limit your alcohol consumption to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.
- Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Human papillomavirus or HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease. Many strains of this virus can infect your mouth and throat. This virus is known to lead to warts and cancer. To minimize risk, always observe safe sex practices and regularly get tested for STDs.
- Infrequent Visits to Doctors and Dental Experts One of the leading causes of oral cancer growth beyond the early stages is the lack of an early diagnosis. Physical and dental check-ups at least twice a year are crucial for everyone regardless of age. Physicians and dentists have the education, training, and experience necessary to detect any abnormalities in the body, such as oral cancer.
Dentistry in the Twin Cities
If you suspect you may have oral cancer or another condition affecting your mouth, teeth, or gums, it’s time to see a qualified and experienced dentist. If you are located near the Twin Cities area, consider seeing the experts at Hagerman Dental Care. Our clinic has extensive experience dealing with all types of dental issues, including oral cancer. To make an appointment, call us at (651) 646-2392 or request an appointment online.