Continuing our coverage for Oral Cancer Awareness Month, I want to talk to you today about something that you don’t want to hear: Your bad habits.
Now don’t write me off, because I’m not here to judge. I just want to lay out some facts in the hope that you or a loved one might listen and, in so doing, take action to save a smile – and quite possibly, save the life behind it.
As a dentist in New Hampshire, you can imagine that I might have some rather strong feelings on the subject. My passion is to deliver the best smile possible for each and every one of my patients, and there is nothing that makes that job more difficult than oral cancer. Most of the time, oral cancers are detected far too late to be easily treated (if at all), which puts you in the realm of care of an oncologist.
But from a dentist’s perspective, it is heartbreaking not just because of the fatal implications, but because oral cancer is extremely treatable IF you manage to get it detected before it has metastasized.
I cannot stress it enough: Early detection is the number one, surefire way to have a major fighting chance against oral cancer, because after a certain point your chances of survival begin to dwindle rapidly.
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, of the roughly 48,000 Americans who are diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal every year, slightly more than half of them will be alive in five years.
So please, if you or a loved one haven’t been in for a checkup in a while, then please, stop what you’re doing and schedule an appointment with your Nashua dentist while there is still time to show cancer who’s boss.
Otherwise, I need you to keep reading so that we can address the elephant in the room.
Two Large, Cranky Elephants
Okay, so there’s actually more than one elephant. The point is that they’re metaphors for the two worst habits a person can have as it relates to dramatically increasing your chances of developing a deadly oral cancer.
I’m talking about tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.
Your chances of developing oral cancer skyrocket if you call either of those habits your own – and doubly so if you regularly do both of them.
It doesn’t matter what type of tobacco you use (pipe, cigar, or cigarettes), because your chances of developing oral cancer increase by six times if you regularly use them. The numbers are even worse for users of so-called “smokeless tobacco,” otherwise known as chewing tobacco, because they are a full 60 times more likely to get oral cancer as a result of their bad habit.
Alcohol and tobacco are also extremely hard on your teeth, and regular, continued use of either of them can stain your teeth and wear down your enamel, all while putting not just your oral health at risk, but your overall health at risk, too.
The best advice I can give you is what you’re not going to want to hear, but it could just save your life: Quit smoking, and quit drinking so much.
Easier said than done, I know, but the point stands that you or a loved one are virtually guaranteeing a premature death from a preventative disease.
In the 21st Century, when there are multiple smoking cessation aids, from nicotine patches to the less-understood e-cigarette, there is no excuse to not try something to at least reduce or altogether eliminate your smoking before it causes irreparable damage to your smile as well as your entire body.
Some estimates suggest that your risk of oral cancer from excessive drinking increases dramatically if you ingest more than 21 alcoholic beverages in under a week, every week. This is also a surefire way to develop cavities and gum disease, because the bacteria that causes both loves to feed on the sugars contained in alcohol residue that’s leftover after a night of drinking and forgetting to brush.
A Life-Saving Appointment Is A Phone Call Away
It should be clear: If you don’t reduce or eliminate your smoking and drinking, then you might as well be signing your own death warrant.
But there’s still time to make an appointment which can stop the disease in its tracks.