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Mother and daughter brushing together

One of the reasons why your dentist is such an important part of your healthcare team is because of the role he or she plays in oral cancer screenings. Your dentist evaluates you for signs of oral cancer whenever you visit your dentist’s office near Glen Ellyn for a checkup. Although oral cancer is treatable in many cases if the dentist diagnoses it early, understanding the causes may help you take steps to prevent it. Here are some of the top risk factors for oral cancer.

Tobacco Use

Smoking is one of the most significant oral cancer risk factors. People who smoke are six times more likely to get the disease. If you smoke, be sure to let your dentist know, as you may need more frequent family dental care and screenings. Your dentist may also be able to provide resources if you are interested in quitting. People who use smokeless tobacco products, including snuff and dip, are also very vulnerable to certain types of oral cancer. If you use smokeless tobacco, your risk of getting cancer of the lips, cheeks, or tongue is significantly greater than that of non-users.

Excessive Drinking

Drinking excessively is closely tied to oral cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 70 percent of people who develop oral cancer are also heavy drinkers, and combining excessive drinking with smoking increases the risk even more. People who both smoke and drink heavily may have a 100% greater risk of developing oral cancer. Talk to your dentist if you’re concerned that your drinking habits could be putting you at risk.


Out of the 100 types of human papillomavirus, or HPV, only some are linked to cancer. The virus HPV-16 is closely tied to oral cancer cases, and other types of the virus may contribute as well. Doctors suspect the same strains of HPV that contribute to cervical cancer may also increase oral cancer risks. In particular, HPV increases the risk of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma or OSCC.