EDITORIAL: The dangers of dipping

Oral cancer can affect anyone — it doesn’t care who you are or what you have achieved. Whether you’re a Baseball Hall of Famer dipping chewing tobacco throughout your playing career or just an average Joe spending a lot of time in the sun, you are at risk of contracting oral cancer.

With baseball season recently under way and millions of impressionable children being exposed to chewing tobacco, now is the time to raise awareness to the dangers of dipping, while providing tips to help prevent this life-threatening disease.

Studies show that one person dies from oral cancer every hour. While oral cancer can be discovered through oral health screenings, death rates associated with the disease are historically high because the cancer continues to be discovered late in its development due to a lack of visual evidence.

“As we’ve seen, oral cancer can be life-threatening and can easily go unnoticed in its early stages,” said Dr. Vincent Lizzio of Great Expressions Dental Centers “We want everyone to know the importance of being pro-active about the prevention of oral cancer and work to detect signs in the early stages of development.”

Preventing oral cancer

To support Oral Cancer Awareness Month, Great Expressions Dental Centers offer the following vital tips to assist with preventing oral cancer:

— Avoid tobacco products. According to the National Cancer Institute, tobacco use is the leading cause of oral cancer. Tobacco includes cigarettes, pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco. Not only can use of these products cause oral cancer in the mouth but also parts of the throat.

— Limit alcohol use. Using alcohol is a large risk factor for oral cancer. The more alcoholic drinks consumed daily, the higher the risk of oral cancer. The risk is about twice as high in people who have three to four alcoholic drinks per day compared to those who don’t drink alcohol, according to the National Cancer Institute.

— Sun exposure. Repeated exposure to sunlight may increase the risk of lip cancer, which most often occurs on the lower lip. Applying lip balm with sunscreen everyday will help prevent sun damage and cancer.

— Regular dentist visits and self-examinations. Scheduling your six month exams is a great way to keep a healthy mouth. The dentist is the first line of defense in identifying dental health problems that may be associated with oral cancer. In addition, be sure to take a few minutes each month for a self-exam to see if you can see or feel anything suspicious including lumps; bumps; tender areas; and any white, red or grey patches. If these symptoms are found, contact your dentist immediately.

— Brush and floss daily. Brushing twice a day with a fluoride based toothpaste is critical in removing bacteria that causes cavities, gingivitis and bad breath. Flossing sometimes is easily forgotten, but if you don’t floss you will miss cleaning 35% of your tooth surfaces. Flossing in the evening will remove bacteria that like to feed on food particles throughout the day and prevent bad breath.

Watch for early indicators

— Spotting early and advanced indicators. Early indicators of oral cancer include: red or white discolorations of the soft tissues of the mouth, any sore that does not heal within 14 days, and hoarseness that lasts for a prolonged period of time. Advanced indicators of oral cancer include: a sensation that something is stuck in your throat, numbness in the oral region, difficulty in moving the jaw or tongue, difficulty in swallowing, ear pain in one side only, or a lump that develops in the mouth or on the neck.

Prevention includes being educated, knowing what to look for, and having an oral cancer screening. A screening consists of an examination of the face, neck, lip and mouth for signs of cancer, as well as checking the tongue for any lesions or discolorations.