October is here and fall has officially begun, bringing with it Breast Cancer Awareness Month as well as National Dental Hygiene Month. This is a time to raise awareness for both and help to prevent problems by monitoring your health and being mindful of your lifestyle choices. Whether you are fighting cancer or dental problems, catching problems in their early stages helps stack the success rate in your favor.
When it comes to breast cancer awareness, you can find out about local and national outreach to educate yourself about steps you can take to help prevent and fight this disease. In addition, your overall health can have an impact on your oral health, and vice versa. According to the American Cancer Society, all women should have a breast exam by a physician every three years from the age of 20-39, and after that, yearly at age 40. The ACS also advises conducting breast self-exams every month. When it comes to your day to day habits, eating a balanced diet, limiting alcohol intake and avoiding smoking can help you tip the balance in your favor to prevent this deadly disease.
October is also when we celebrate the work dental hygienists do to protect your oral health and prevent dental problems. It allows us to stress the importance of regularly monitoring your oral health to catch problems in their early stage when they are most easily and least invasively treated. As with breast cancer, avoiding smoking (or tobacco in any form) and limiting alcohol can help you prevent oral cancer. There are also steps you can take to keep oral cancer away:
What You Can Do:
- Avoid smoking and tobacco in all its forms.
- Limit alcohol use or avoid altogether.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, particularly between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Use sunscreen to help protect your skin.
- Shield your lips with a lip balm containing SPF 30 or more when you are outside.
- A daily diet rich in cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables for their phytonutrients and other unique compounds. Vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes and garlic, and fruits like berries, red grapes, and citrus.
- Keep up with all routine dental checkups.
When you see our dentist for routine cleanings and exams, we will also be checking for oral cancer. Cancer can show up on the lips, inside your mouth, on the salivary glands, your tonsils, the back of the throat, on your tongue or esophagus. If you are being treated for cancer anywhere in your body using radiation or chemotherapy, your dental health can be impacted so it’s especially important to check for problems.
When it comes to your daily oral hygiene habits, you want to maintain healthy teeth and gums to avoid oral cancer and other dental problems. As part of Dental Hygiene awareness month, we encourage you to follow the advice of the American Dental Association which promotes your best dental health.
Dental Hygiene Tips
- Brush at least twice a day with a toothbrush that fits into your mouth easily. Brush the surfaces of all your teeth – the front, back, and tops – and don’t forget the ones in the back. Also, brush your tongue to reduce bacteria in the mouth and fight halitosis.
- Floss between the teeth and around the gum line at least once a day with a flossing method of your choice. Be sure you clean between your pearly whites daily to avoid harmful build-up or the hardening of plaque.
- Rinse with a non-alcohol microbial mouthwash to remove bacteria and biofilm that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after meals can stimulate healthy saliva production which neutralizes harmful acids and washes away bacterial debris.
Daily brushing, flossing, eating healthy and checking your mouth monthly for signs of unusual activity can all go a long way in protecting your health for a lifetime of healthy smiles. For October, we encourage you to take stock of your overall health as well as your dental health and do what you can to live your healthiest life. You hold the keys to better health by detecting problems early on when the success rate is highest. We wish you the best of health and are here to support your daily efforts!