You may not have known someone with oral cancer, but the incidence of it is on the rise so knowing if you’re at risk for oral cancer is very important Oral cancers can affect the tongue, cheeks, lips, gums and the hard or soft palate. In the U.S. alone, approximately 100 people everyday will be diagnosed with a form of mouth cancer and 1 person will die from oral cancer every hour of the day. 1
Oral cancers historically would afflict people who were over the age of 40, but it is now found that HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is an oral cancer-causing agent in a younger age group. This is the same virus that can cause cervical cancers in women.
Oral cancers also evolve due to chemical factors. Those who choose to smoke, chew tobacco or consume alcohol are more likely to develop cancers of the mouth. These types of lifestyles tend to develop oral cancer later in life due to the fact of prolonged exposure.
Another vehicle for oral cancer to strike is exposure to the sun. Our lips, are of course part of our skin, so when you lather up with sunscreen, don’t forget a lip balm with an SPF.
According to the American Dental Association, signs to look for to detect oral cancer are:
· A sore that bleeds easily or doesn’t heal
· A color change in the tissues of the mouth
· Any lump, rough spot, crust or thickening
· Pain, tenderness, or numbness in the lips or mouth
· Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue
On a positive note, oral cancer can now be detected easily. By seeing your dentist regularly for exams, any changes in your mouth can be noted. There may be areas in your mouth that look suspicious but a lot of the time, tend to be harmless, such as an area you may have bitten or burned. Your dentist is trained to look for these things. He or she may have you come back in a couple of weeks to recheck the area and you may or may not be sent to a specialist. In general, if a suspicious looking area has not gone away in approximately 14 days, that would be the time to have a professional check it. When detected early, the survival rate of oral cancer is 80-90%. 1
Remember, there are numerous reasons to visit us at Szmanda Dental on a regular basis and this is obviously an important one. Make sure you get on a 6 month dental hygiene schedule in which you will not only have clean teeth afterwards, but will have had an exam to check for things such as oral cancer. Make an appointment at Szmanda Dental today!