Oral Cancer Causes and Risks Factors

Regularly going to the dentist is essential.

Dentists don’t just help maintain the health of your mouth, teeth, and gums; they also check for signs of oral cancer. Early detection of this type of cancer prevents it from becoming life-threatening.

You might be wondering, “how do you get oral cancer?” Sunrise Dentistry is here to enlighten you. We have a team of dental professionals with years of experience in providing quality dental care to everyone. Let’s discuss oral cancer causes, risk factors, and more.

What Causes Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the mouth grow out of control. The reason it spreads aggressively is because of various oral cancer risk factors. Some common oral cancer causes and risk factors are cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption — both of which contain cancer-causing chemicals.

The main cause is a change in the DNA located in the mouth and throat, which can do any of these two things:

Promote the development of cancer by creating oncogenes that start the growth of cancer cells
Terminate tumor suppressor genes that stop the growth of cancer cells

When abnormal cells start getting out of control, a tumor may develop, and you may start showing symptoms.

Oral Cancer Risk Factors

Now that you know the answer to “what causes oral cancer?” let’s discuss the following risk factors:


One of the common oral cancer causes and risk factors is drinking alcohol. The more you consume, the greater the risk of you getting it.

Tobacco Products

If you also consume tobacco products, your risk of getting oral cancer significantly increases. Cigars, pipes, and cigarettes are tobacco products that can cause oral cancer. Like alcohol, the longer a person smokes, the higher their risk of getting oral cancer.

Exposure to tobacco products is also a risk factor for non-smoking individuals. Research published in 2013 shows that exposure to secondhand smoke as a child puts you at greater risk of getting it when you grow up.

Compromised Immune System

Another oral cancer cause and risk factor is a weak immune system. Immunocompromised patients or people with existing health conditions are more prone to oral cancer — especially those with HIV or those who have gone through an organ transplant.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease linked to the development of various cancers, such as penile, anal, cervical, and vaginal. The type HPV-16 is linked to cancer in the tonsils and the base of the tongue.

Fortunately, there’s an HPV vaccine available. It is mainly developed for cervical cancer, but research suggests that it also decreases the spread of oral HPV infection and potentially lowers the chance of the development of oral cancer. However, further research is still needed to prove it.

Other oral cancer causes and risk factors include:

  • Sun exposure
  • Lack of vegetables and fruits in your diet
  • Genetics
  • Personal history
  • Betel-quid use
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Use of alcohol-based mouthwash

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

Now that you know the answer to the question, “how do you get oral cancer?” here are the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty speaking, chewing, and swallowing
  • Pain or tenderness in the face, neck, or mouth
  • Change in your bite
  • Weight loss
  • Bumps or lumps in any areas of your mouth
  • Hoarseness of voice and chronic sore throat

How Do Dentists Detect Oral Cancer?

When you visit the dentist every six months, they examine your mouth, teeth, and gums. They also check your head, neck, and the other areas of your mouth for anything unusual.

They will also ask you about your medical history. It’s an excellent opportunity to ask them about oral cancer causes, risk factors, and other dental concerns you might have.

Oral cancer screening involves an intra-oral and extra-oral examination. If your dentist suspects anything abnormal, they will refer you to a specialist.

Sunrise Dentistry Is Here for You

We are your partners when it comes to maintaining a healthy mouth.

If you have questions regarding oral cancer causes and risk factors, we are more than willing to answer them for you. Scheduling regular visits to the best dentists in Durango, Colorado, can help keep things in check. The earlier we detect oral cancer, the better.

Schedule an appointment with us today. We’re excited to have you.