April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. That also makes it a great time to remind you about the benefits of routine dental exams .
During your visit, we’ll do all the usual stuff. We’ll remove plaque and tartar. We’ll polish your teeth. We’ll check closely for signs of tooth decay and gum disease.
And we will look for any symptoms of oral cancer. Thankfully, it’s rare that we see any of those symptoms. If we do, we will let you know. We know this is a much bigger issue than needing a filling or a periodontal treatment, which is why early detection is so important.
Please call 412-828-3311 today if you have not yet scheduled your next checkup. We hope to see you soon at Oakmont Advanced Dentistry here in Oakmont, PA.
What You Should Look For
The symptoms of oral cancer aren’t going to wait to appear until your dental visits. So, it’s also in your own interest to know some of the most common signs of this condition.
You may have sores in your mouth. If they have not healed for weeks, that could be a symptom of something serious. You might have patches of soft tissue that appear redder, whiter, or a mix of colors in your mouth.
As with other kinds of cancer, you may develop lumps in your mouth or throat or on your lips. You may feel like you are hoarse, have a sore throat, or have something that is stuck in your throat. You might have pain or difficulty when trying to eat, swallow, or speak. You may also notice numbness in and around your lips and mouth.
It’s important to point out that these symptoms don’t necessarily mean that you have oral cancer, but they could be considered a good reason to contact your doctor. A physician can help you determine if more testing is needed.
According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, early detection can make a big difference in your treatment. Using the five-year survival rate as a standard, 80 to 90 percent of oral cancer patients survive when their cancer is detected in the early stages. In comparison, 57 percent survive when this kind of cancer is found in the late stages.
Take Preventive Steps
Doctors can identify the cause of oral cancer 90 percent of the time. That means you can’t completely eliminate your risk of developing this disease, but you can take steps to reduce your risk.
- Don’t Use Tobacco
Tobacco use is easily the biggest contributing factor. Conservative estimates are that it plays a role in 75 percent of new oral cancer cases. It also doesn’t matter what kind of tobacco product you use (cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco). They have carcinogenic chemicals in them. Your risk for oral cancer increases longer you use them and more frequently you use them.
- Drink Responsibly … Or Not At All
Alcohol is the second-leading cause of oral cancer in the United States. Consuming 21 or more drinks per weeks is a known risk factor. And it may go without saying, but consuming alcohol while using tobacco makes those risks greater.
- Get Vaccinated While You Can
HPV-16 is a strain of the human papillomavirus. For 99 percent of patients, it has no noticeable effects, but for 1 percent of the population, it can lead to cancer — including oral cancer. This is one of the reasons health officials recommend giving the vaccine to 12 year olds. Talk to your physician if you have more question about your vaccination options.