Did you know that flossing daily and seeing the dentist regularly can reduce your risk of developing oral cancer?
Flossing is an important oral health habit that promotes a healthy mouth and body. Yet, only 30 percent of Americans floss daily, despite the health benefits. Many people are surprised to learn that poor oral health is linked to the development of oral cancer despite studies that show people who practice good oral health habits are less likely to develop oral cancer.
Oral cancer causes
In a study presented at the 2019 American Academy for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting, researchers compared the behaviors of individuals who developed oral cancer and those who did not. They saw that people who visited the dentist at least once a year and flossed daily had a lower chance of developing oral cancer.
According to the research, individuals who “went to the dentist less than once a year had nearly twice the risk of developing non-HPV oral cancer than those who went once a year or more.” Additionally, individuals who didn’t floss daily “had over twice the risk of developing non-HPV oral cancer than those who flossed more.”
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that affects your mouth and the areas surrounding it.
Oral cancer can affect your:
More than 90 percent of oral cancer is caused by the cells of the throat and mouth mutating or altering. Cell mutation, or changes in the cells in our mouths, can be caused by:
- HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
- Sun exposure
- Weakened immunity
- Alcohol consumption
- Tobacco consumption
Signs and symptoms of oral cancer
Symptoms of oral cancer include:
- A lip or mouth sore that isn’t healing
- White or reddish patches inside the mouth
- New growth or lump in the mouth
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
- Loose teeth
- Mouth or ear pain
Dental visits can help catch oral cancer before it develops into something more harmful. Your dentist is going to be your first line of defense when it comes to preventing oral cancer. Tell them about any problems you have when chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your tongue and jaw. Additionally, quit smoking (or don’t start) and drink alcohol in moderation. Smokeless tobacco products can also increase your risk of oral cancer. If you have symptoms that persist for more than two weeks, you should visit your dentist and/or doctor.
What to do if you have oral cancer
Your dentist cares about more than your oral health. They care about your overall well-being, too. If they see a warning sign of oral cancer, they may have you return after a few weeks to reassess. They may also take a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis. Your dentist will likely refer you to another dentist or physician for a second opinion. Talk to your dentist about any questions you have during the process. To find a dentist in your area, click here.
Start flossing now
It’s never too late to start taking care of your oral health. Initially, you may experience sensitivity or bleeding during flossing, which is normal. When we don’t perform the right oral hygiene practices, plaque builds up between our teeth and gums. This plaque is made up of cavity-causing bacteria that irritate the tissue of our mouth. When we floss and brush well, we remove the plaque that has been living there. The disruption of this plaque can cause bleeding. If the bleeding doesn’t stop over time, tell your dentist.
Flossing and seeing your dentist regularly is not only good for your teeth, but they can also help save your life!
- Looking for tips on brushing and flossing? Click here.
*Updated November 2022