Oral cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers diagnosed each year in the United States, which translates to about 53,000 new cases each year. You may be thinking, “Great, another cancer to worry about!” But the good news is your dentist does his or her part to protect you from oral cancer every time you come in for a dental exam. Read on for more information on this dangerous disease.
What You Need To Know About Oral Cancer
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, so this is the perfect time to read up on the disease so that you know the signs – it can spread very quickly, so early detection is important. Your dentist probably checks for any signs of cancer during your regular exam, but you should make an appointment with your dentist or doctor if you notice, on your lips, tongue, or gums: white or red patches of tissue; growths or lumps; difficulty or pain when swallowing; tongue pain; a sore that doesn’t heal; enlarged lymph nodes; ear pain; loose teeth; and/or numbness in the face or tongue. Of course, if you see anything unusual or are experiencing pain, you should see your dentist.
Here are some factors that might increase your risk for oral cancer:
- Tobacco and alcohol use. Your risk increases if you use tobacco of any kind. Heavy alcohol use also increases the risk, and if you use both alcohol and tobacco this increases your risk even more.
- Age. Your risk increases as you age. Oral cancers are found most often in people over the age of 40.
- Sun exposure. Your lips can develop cancer just like any other part of your skin.
- Genetics. If you have a family history of cancer you are at a higher risk.
- Poor diet. There is a link between oral cancer (and other types of cancer as well) and not eating enough fruits and vegetables.
Your dentist will check for symptoms of oral cancer at your next exam, but if you see any signs of oral cancer, don’t wait for your next appointment. Softouch Dental Care serves Oakton, Vienna, and Fairfax, Virginia – call 703-747-9734 for an appointment today!