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Behaviors that can increase your risk of facial disease

Approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer every year.

Lower your risk factor by doing your best to avoid the following behaviors.

Smoking and other uses of tobacco

Most cases of oral cancer are directly linked to tobacco use. All forms of tobacco (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff) will increase the risk of contracting oral cancer but those in the highest risk bracket combine smoking with at least one form of smokeless tobacco use. Frequency of use, number of years using and quantity of consumption all affect risk.

Alcohol consumption

Drinking alcohol is the second most prevalent cause of oral disease. While alcohol use on its own qualifies as a risky behavior, combining alcohol with tobacco is increases risk. The amount you drink plays a significant role in your level of risk.


Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of more than 100 viruses that can lead to oral cancer. HPV is often contracted via unprotected sexual intercourse. HPV-16 is the strain most likely to lead to oral cancer.

Excessive sun exposure

Cancer of the lips is common among people who work outdoors in the sun or have extremely fair skin. Fortunately, applying a high SPF lip protection will greatly reduce risk.

Medications that weaken your immune system

Some medications, particularly those used to treat immune system disorders or to aid in organ transplant, can lead to a higher risk of contracting HPV. Patients taking drugs that weaken their immune system should take extra precautions to prevent infection.

Poor oral health habits

Insufficient brushing and flossing leads to plaque buildup and acid that destroys tooth enamel. Along with the high likelihood of getting cavities, gum disease or suffering tooth loss, poor oral health is also a risk factor for more serious facial disease. Those who are missing one or more teeth should take special care to clean their mouth properly in order to avoid bacterial infection.