You might be surprised to learn that your dentist performs an oral cancer screening at every routine checkup and cleaning. While this step often goes underappreciated, it only takes seconds and could very well save your life. Because April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, now’s the perfect time to learn more about this condition. Read on to learn a bit more about oral cancer, what it looks like, and what you can do about it.
The Importance of Oral Cancer Awareness Month
Believe it or not, oral cancer is an incredibly serious health condition that is fairly common. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, someone dies of it once an hour every hour. Of the 54,000 Americans that are diagnosed every year, only slightly more than half will be alive in five years. In many cases, dentists are the first to notice the signs of it.
There are two types of oral cancer you should know of:
- Cancer of the oral cavity – This can affect your lips, teeth, gums, the front of your tongue, the floor and roof of your mouth, and the inside of your cheeks.
- Cancer of the oropharynx – This can be found in the throat, tonsils, the base of your tongue, and the spot where it attaches to the floor of your mouth. Your throat starts at the soft part of the roof of your mouth and continues back into your throat.
What Are the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?
By recognizing the risk factors of oral cancer, you can take the right steps to prevent it from developing. Two of the biggest ones are tobacco and alcohol use. Heavily abusing either substance can significantly increase your risk of the condition.
It’s also worth noting that oral cancer has been linked with the sexually transmitted disease HPV. Even though the large majority of people who contract the virus will heal afterward, it will lay dormant in some people, eventually contributing to cancer.
Signs of Oral Cancer to Lookout For
Keep an eye out for early signs of oral cancer! Some of those symptoms include:
- A sore or irritation that doesn’t go away
- Red or white patches on your gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth
- Pain, tenderness, or numbness in your mouth or lips
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your tongue or jaw
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
- Loose teeth or dentures that don’t fit well anymore
- The feeling something is caught in your throat
- Being hoarse or noticing a change in your voice
These issues will not heal on their own if they’re caused by cancer. If you notice any of these symptoms lasting longer than three or four weeks, you should ask your dentist about an oral cancer screening.
About the Practice
Our team at Tamborello Dental Associates is highly experienced and trained to work with several different patients to meet their unique needs. We will go above and beyond to ensure you get the care you deserve. If you want an oral cancer screening, contact us to schedule a routine appointment. You can call us at (713) 522-7540 or visit our website.