April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. So, are you aware that nearly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer every year? Did you know that only about 50 percent will survive more than five years beyond their diagnosis? Were you aware that oral cancer is responsible for more than 9,500 deaths each year—that’s about one death 24/7? Finally, did you know that your general dentist in Fayetteville, NC is on the forefront of health care providers helping to prevent this disease? At each one of your dental checkups, we conduct an oral cancer screening designed to detect early warning signs. Let’s take a look at some of those signs, as well as the risks for oral cancer and the steps to a screening.
What are the Warning Signs for Oral Cancer?
Oral and pharyngeal (throat) cancers are found in soft tissue. Your dentist in Fayetteville, NC will look for signs on your tongue, lips, cheeks and gums as well as the roof and floor of your mouth and in your throat. The warning signs include changes in tissue and other factors that could mean cancerous or pre-cancerous cells are present.
These signs include:
- A sore in your mouth or on your lips that won’t heal and may bleed
- A red or white patch of tissue that can be either smooth or scaly
- A spot in your moth that feels numb
- A lump in your mouth, along the jaw or down your neck
- Loose teeth or dentures
- An earache without an infection
- Difficulty swallowing or a persistent sore throat
What are the Risks for Oral Cancer?
Some behaviors increase the risk for developing oral cancer. Chief among them is the use of smoking or chewing tobacco. Add excessive alcohol consumption to that and the risk increases again.
Other risk factors include:
- Being a male over the age of 40
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- An unhealthy diet
- Excessive sun exposure
How is an Oral Cancer Screening Conducted?
To find the early warning signs listed above, your family dentist in Fayetteville, NC visually examines your lips and the entire oral cavity—inside your cheeks, on top of and underneath your tongue, and down your throat. He will also palpate along your neck, jaw and clavicle to detect lumps.
If you haven’t been to the dentist for a dental checkup within the last six months, then call the office today to schedule an appointment. We’re here to take care of your smile and help you avoid oral cancer.
About the Author
Dr. Angela C. Ruff earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is dedicated to her patients oral and general health. She practices at Ascot Aesthetic Implants & Dentistry and can be reached for more information through her website.