Oral hygiene

People imagine good oral hygiene is only about teeth but it’s also about the health of the soft tissue inside your mouth. It’s important to keep it healthy as this is where oral cancer can develop. It is usually found in the squamous cells in your mouth, tongue and lips.
Your dentist or dental hygienist is often the first healthcare provider to notice signs of oral cancer. They are trained to screen for cancer and when you get a check-up, they will check the gums, tongue, lips and cheeks for anything suspicious.
You can take a role in reducing your risk of oral cancer by maintaining oral hygiene. Some of the things you can do are:

  • Don’t smoke – smokers have a higher risk of developing oral cancer.

  • Drink in moderation – heavy drinking can increase the risk of oral cancer, especially if combined with smoking.

  • Eat a good diet – a diet high in vegetables can lower your risk of oral cancer.

  • Floss and brush regularly – having an unhealthy mouth can affect your immune system which in turn can make it difficult for your body to ward off potential cancer.

  • Regular exercise – having an active lifestyle boosts your immune system.

  • Use sunscreen on your lips – it’s easy to forget the lips but you can get skin cancer on your lips through exposure to UV rays.

  • Screening - see your dentist or dental hygienist for an oral cancer screening once every six months.

You can also be aware of the signs. Indications that something isn’t quite right include:

  • A white or red patch that won’t go away

  • A lump in your neck

  • A persistent sore

  • Pain, tenderness or numbness in the mouth or lips

  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw

If any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it’s time to visit the dentist. Early detection is vital. If in doubt, get it checked!