April is Oral Health Month and Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month. Good oral health starts with you—it’s important to be aware of what you can do all year long to maintain a healthy smile and prevent problems before they begin. Here are some tips to keep your mouth in top form.
Make healthy food choices
A well-balanced diet is a key to a healthy body. Limit foods and beverages high in sugar and carbohydrates. These, along with highly acidic offerings like carbonated drinks and processed foods, can wear on your enamel, leading to tooth erosion, infection, and sensitivity. Instead, reach for vitamin and fibre-rich foods, such as vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Choose water as your primary beverage between meals.
Keep your mouth clean
It’s never too late to develop healthy habits that benefit your body. Regularly brushing your teeth two to three times a day with quality fluoride toothpaste and flossing go a long way in maintaining a healthy mouth. This can also help you avoid halitosis (bad breath) and gingivitis (redness, inflammation, and swelling around teeth). Work with your dentist to establish a regular dental exam and cleaning routine appropriate for you to prevent and detect potential issues.
Don’t ignore changes
Tell your dentist if you notice any changes to your teeth or soft tissues in your mouth, such as bleeding, discolouration, or oral pain (tooth sensitivity or discomfort in your jaw, for example). If you’ve had any recent changes to your health, including changes in medication or the development of conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease, share that with your dentist. As part of your health care team, your dentist will work with you to ensure your oral health is in good shape to complement your overall well-being.
Avoid tobacco and limit alcohol
Cigarettes and chewing tobacco carry a high risk for many health problems, including impacts on your oral health. Vaping can also have a negative effect. Quitting tobacco use reduces your chance of developing gum disease or oral cancer. Limiting alcohol consumption can help keep your mouth healthy as well.
Preventing head and neck cancer
Oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, including the lips, tongue, tonsils, and salivary glands. The Canadian Dental Association reported in 2007, approximately 3,200 Canadians were diagnosed with oral cancer, and 1,100 deaths occurred from the disease. Unfortunately, this form of cancer is often diagnosed late, but early detection can improve survival rates. Here are some tips you can follow for early detection.
Be aware of the signs
As you would maintain your overall oral care, keep an eye on changes in your mouth, including your gums, cheeks, and tongue. This includes unexplained bleeding, patchy red or white areas, persistent sores that last for more than seven to ten days, minor lumps or thickening, or changes in sensation. Reach out to Dr. Bains if you discover any noticeable concerns about your mouth, teeth, or gums.
Know your risk factors
Oral cancer can affect anyone, but some factors increase the risk. In addition to tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption, increased age, sun exposure to the lips, previous head and neck cancers, and oral infections (such as human papillomavirus or HPV) can increase susceptibility. However, knowing these factors can help you make choices that will reduce the risk to your health.
Visit your dentist for a screening
Dr. Bains conducts oral cancer screenings at routine dental check-ups. During your visit, she looks for signs of any abnormalities in your mouth, and she may use a non-invasive tool known as a VELscope. A VELscope is a handheld device that emits blue light to help dentists more easily see abnormalities that may be hard to detect with the naked eye. Regular screenings are effective in spotting problems early, making treatment options more successful if they are needed.
Healthy mouth, healthy life
One of the best things you can do for your dental and whole-body wellness is to maintain a healthy oral care routine. With the help of our skilled dental hygienists and professional administrators, Dr. Bains and the Lewis Estates Dental Centre team are ready to provide you with the dental care you need for a healthy quality of life. Book your next appointment with us today.