When I was a kid, the phrase “creature of habit” seemed, like most things at that age, very literal. I imagined there was a monster who was in charge of people’s bad habits, and it was his job to make doing the right thing difficult.
It didn’t take long to understand that it was a figure of speech meant to describe someone who makes a habit of something, whether it’s going for a run before dawn or the way your fold your napkin at a restaurant.
Even after dental school, and nearly 40 years of being a dentist in Washington serving Kennewick families, I’ve never quite managed to shake that image of that monster when it comes to two bad, and downright dangerous habits.
Meet The Creatures: Smoking & Drinking
Although it would be more accurate to call those habits “vices,” I think it is less judgmental to say that not all habits are created equally.
But if you are a regular user of tobacco and consume more than 50 alcoholic beverages a week, then the dentist in me cannot abide. So in the interest of continuing our observance of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, I want to share with you some sobering information about the huge oral cancer risks posed by those substances.
You are just a frightening Google search away from decades of data describing the links between tobacco (cigarettes in particular) and the heightened risk for oral cancer. On average, the risk of a regular smoker being diagnosed with a case of oral cancer is 15-20 times more likely than a non-smoker.
Alcohol is thought to be a kind of enabler for cancer when combined with cigarettes, with research indicating that the dehydrating effect alcohol has upon the mouth can increase membrane penetration of carcinogens in mouth tissue, as well as lowering your body’s general immunity to infection.
Together, alcohol and cigarettes won’t just erode and dull your smile; they’ll turn your smile into a deadly weapon, just as does to the more than 9,000 people who lose their lives as a result of oral cancer each year in the United States. It’s a sad statistic, but sugarcoating the truth won’t protect you. Only you can.
Cut. It. Out!
I understand that addiction can be a difficult and dicey prospect, but for the sake of your smile and your life, eliminating these bad habits will likely be one of the smartest decisions you could ever make.
Aside from the obvious health benefits, think of all the money spent on those habits, and all the money you’ll spend fighting the health consequence those habits will likely visit upon you. It boggles my mind, but I understand that it can be a difficult process.
It can’t hurt to reach out to your family’s physician if you are serious about a healthy lifestyle change, but I want you to know that it is entirely possible to reclaim your health and cut those bad habits out once and for all. You just have to be willing to take that first step, and you’ll already be on your way.
By quitting smoking and drinking alcohol, your smile will also suffer less cosmetic damage, too. The cumulative effect of those habits will destroy the appearance of your smile as they raise your cancer risk higher and higher. It’s a lose-lose situation, and you deserve better than that.
Even reducing the amount your smoke or drink is better than nothing, so don’t be too hard on yourself by having an “all or nothing” attitude. This kind of positive personal transformation doesn’t happen overnight.
Making An Important Appointment
Yet when it comes to helping you deal with the damage caused by those habits, and to discuss with you in greater detail the risks you face for oral cancer, I invite you to set up a consultation appointment with me. If those creatures of habit have been doing a number on the appearance of your smile (and they most certainly will if they haven’t already), then I can help you to repair the visual damage as well as the endodontic damage which can arise as a result.
I can be reached at 509-591-0515, and you may also feel free to request your appointment with us by using our online appointment service. Just fill out this questionnaire, and we’ll get back to you right away.