April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

This month, we turn our attention to increasing awareness of this devastating disease and encouraging our patients, their families and friends to have regular oral cancer screenings performed by a dentist.

Oral cancer accounts for roughly two percent of all cancers diagnosed annually in the United States. Approximately 35,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer each year and about 7,600 will die from the disease.
  • On average, 60 percent of those with the disease will survive more than 5 years.
  • Oral cancer most often occurs in people over the age of 40 and affects more than twice as many men as women.
  • Oral (mouth) cancer is more common in African American men than in any other group in the U.S.
While some think this is a rare cancer, mouth cancer will be newly diagnosed in about 100 new individuals each day in the US alone, and a person dies from oral cancer every hour of every day.”

Oral cancer often goes unnoticed by the patient because it often does not produce obvious pain or noticeable symptoms.

Signs & Symptoms of Oral Cancer include:
  •  A sore or lesion in the mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal within a couple of weeks.
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek, or a rough spot or eroded area.
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth or other color changes in oral tissues.
  • A lingering sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat.
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue.
  • Pain, tenderness or numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth.
  • Swelling of the jaw that causes teeth to fit poorly together or dentures to become uncomfortable.
Oral cancer most commonly affects one or more of these areas in the oral cavity:
  • front 2/3 of the tongue
  • lining of the cheeks and lips (the buccal mucosa)
  • floor of mouth under the tongue
  • roof of the mouth (hard palate)
  • gums (gingiva)
  • small area behind the wisdom teeth (the retromolar trigone)
  • minor salivary glands
Risk Factors of Oral Cancer:
  • Smoking & Alcohol use - Most cases of oral cancer are linked to cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol use, or the use of both tobacco and alcohol together. Using tobacco plus alcohol poses a much greater risk than using either substance alone.
  • HPV - Infection with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (specifically the HPV 16 type) has been linked to a subset of oral cancers.
  • Age - Risk increases with age. Oral cancer most often occurs in people over the age of 40.
  • Sun Exposure - Cancer of the lip can be caused by sun exposure.
  • Diet - A diet low in fruits and vegetables may play a role in oral cancer development.

 It is important to find oral cancer as early as possible when it can be treated more successfully.

We routinely check your face, neck, lips and entire mouth for possible signs of cancer at your regular examination and preventive care visits. For patients that have a family history of oral cancer or other associated risks, we may recommend closer examination using Identafi® Technology:

Identafi® Technology is a patented detection system that is designed to use optical fluorescence reflective light to evaluate body tissue and help locate areas that may be affected by pre-cancerous conditions (dysplasia) and cancers. This remarkable screening tool allows us to conduct a more detailed assessment in just a few minutes, and uses a special mouth mirror-style instrument, so it is completely comfortable for the patient.

View the video about Identafi® technology:

Your Health is Important. Please share this vital information with your friends and family to help us promote oral cancer screening to detect this life-threatening condition as early as possible.

We invite you to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer.

American Dental Association web site
Oral Cancer Foundation
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

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