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Protect Your Smile In The Sun

2018 July 9
by Jackie

There is more to dentistry than just teeth.  Here, at Woodcock Lane Dental Care, we care about the health of your whole mouth.  That is why our latest advice is to always apply sunscreen to your lips when out and about in the sun.  This will help to protect you from lip cancer.

Actinic cheilitis, also known as solar chelitis, sailor’ lip or farmer’s lip is a precancerous condition caused by damage to the outer layer of the lip’s skin.  The condition itself is not considered a serious health concern, but it does increases the risk of skin cancer.  It more commonly affects the lower lip and adult males.  The condition may present itself as dry, cracked lips.

Actinic cheilitis may be caused by exposure to strong sunlight or extreme weather. The lip epithelium is less pigmented and also thinner than the outer layer of the facial skin next to it. This makes it far more vulnerable to damage from the ultraviolet rays of the sun.  Excessive or chronic exposure to ultraviolet radiation found in sunlight, can damage lip cell DNA and cause abnormalities.  Actinic cheilitis occurs when these abnormalities cause dry, scaly patches to form on the border of the lip.

The main causes and risk factors of actinic cheilitis are:  chronic sun exposure, severe sunburn, oral sex, fair skin, out door jobs, smoking, excessive alcohol and immune disorders.

Our advice to help prevent this is to:

  • Avoid excessive or long-term unprotected sun exposure.
  • Apply sunscreen to the body and face daily, including lips, even if not spending a long time outside
  • Apply lip balms or moisturizers that contain sunscreen, frequently throughout the day, especially when in the sun
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and light, long-sleeved clothing in the sun
  • Stop smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Avoid excessive alcohol use
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Get prompt, appropriate treatment for human papilloma virus or wart virus
  • Keep hydrated, especially when in the sun

If you have any sore patches or ulcers on your lips, mouth, tongue or cheeks that are white and/or red that do not heal with in three weeks please make an appointment to see your dentist for further advice.


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