April is a special month, not just because of April Fool’s Day and Easter! It is officially Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and the Hebron Family Dental team wanted to take the time to highlight an often-overlooked disease. Oral cancer can be deadly, but staying on top of your routine appointments can significantly aid in preventative measures and catching anomalies before they worsen. In addition to your cleaning and exam, one of our dentists will conduct an oral cancer screening to ensure nothing abnormal has developed.
So how serious is oral cancer, and why does it develop?
- There are several risk factors associated with oral cancer, the most common of which are having a history of heavy smoking or drinking and the presence of HPV16. In addition to this, around ten percent of oral cancer patients do not have any known risk factors; genetics or other unknowns may play a role.
- The signs of oral cancer from substance use versus oral cancer from HPV16 can differ. The former is commonly identified through persistent soft tissue discoloration, ulcers, bleeding, lumps in soft tissue, and more. The latter may be identified by a long-lasting sore throat, a swollen tonsil, difficulty swallowing, or a persistent cough, among other things.
- According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, it is estimated almost 55,000 cases are diagnosed yearly. Since many oral cancers are discovered late in their development, they can lead to long-term problems if not treated properly.
Like with most cancers and diseases, there are risk factors in and out of your control. However, it is essential to consider prevention and living a healthy lifestyle, especially if you are at risk. We are here to help in any way we can!
What are the most effective ways to prevent oral cancer?
- You can make many simple lifestyle changes and take preventative measures, such as not using tobacco products, consuming alcohol in moderation, receiving the HPV vaccine, lowering exposure to UV light, and getting regular dental checkups.
- Your dentist will check for signs and symptoms of oral cancer during your bi-yearly visits. Dentists receive special training regarding detecting anomalies early on, so you will be in great hands! If you are at a higher risk for oral cancer, let your dentist know, and a more thorough examination will be conducted.
- It is beneficial to routinely check your lips, neck, and mouth for concerning symptoms. If you have abnormal pain, difficulty swallowing, find a lump, or anything else suspicious, make sure to contact us immediately to get it looked at.
According to the American Dental Association, early detection of oral cancer can increase long-term survival and decrease morbidity. We care about our patients and local community and believe these two factors are highly important for oral health, long-term happiness, and peace of mind. If you or a loved one have been exhibiting potential symptoms of oral cancer, call us at (972) 820-8780 to have it looked at immediately. We are also happy to answer any questions regarding risk factors, prevention, and more. Your health is our priority! Read about overcoming dental anxiety.