| 01/14/16

oral healthUnfortunately, about 45,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. While this number may seem like a lot, the good news is that with early detection, the oral cancer survival rate is high. To this end, we want to educate our patients on the subject of oral cancer so you can quickly detect any symptoms and receive early treatment, if needed.

What Is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer—which is sometimes called mouth cancer—is cancer that occurs in any area of the mouth. This includes the tongue, the inside of the cheeks, the gums, the tonsils, and the salivary glands.

Who Gets Oral Cancer?

Typically, oral cancer is found in smokers, those who consume large amounts of alcohol, and people who use chewing tobacco. Other risk factors include excessive sun exposure, certain strains of Human papillomavirus (HPV), and a family history of cancer. However, about 25% of people who develop oral cancer are non-smokers who only drink occasionally.

How Can I Prevent Oral Cancer?

The most important things that you can do to prevent oral cancer include: not smoking or using tobacco chewing products, refraining from drinking excessively or binge drinking, and protecting yourself from the sun. While many people remember to apply sunblock lotions to their bodies, few people consider the importance of using sunscreen on their lips. We encourage you to make this a new, ongoing habit!

What Are the Signs of Oral Cancer?

Some of the most common signs of oral cancer include:

  • Swellings, bumps, rough spots, crust, or eroded areas inside the mouth
  • The development of white, red, or speckled patches in the mouth
  • Unexplained mouth bleeding or numbness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal within 2 weeks
  • Soreness or a feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Hoarseness or chronic sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • A change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
  • Dramatic weight loss

How Do I Know If I Have Oral Cancer?

A dentist is your best defense against oral cancer. During oral cancer screenings, a dentist will examine your mouth carefully to look for lesions or other abnormalities that may be early warning signs of cancer. This is one reason why it is so important to come in for regular 6-month checkups.

What Do I Do If I Have Been Diagnosed with Oral Cancer?

If your dentist discovers signs of cancer, you will be referred to a specialist for further examination. In the event of a cancer diagnosis, there are a number of treatment options at your disposal, depending on how far along the cancer is and where it is located.

Commonly, doctors will use one of the following treatments: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or drug therapy that is targeted to alter specific aspects of cancer cells that fuel their growth. You may undergo just one treatment or your doctor many recommend a combination of treatments to destroy the cancer cells.

We hope that by sharing this information with you, you will enjoy a long and happy life – cancer free! And, if you have been putting off your next dental visit, please do not hesitate any longer. We do not just clean teeth—we can also detect signs of cancer, allowing you to receive early treatment, which could save your life.

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