Tooth decay and gum disease aren’t the only dangers that may be hiding in your mouth. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of routine oral cancer screenings. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 54,000 Americans are diagnosed annually. It claims the lives of over 9,750 people yearly. Here’s why you should not skip your semi-annual appointments for a cleaning and checkup.
The Power of Early Detection
Oral cancer is classified as those affecting the oral cavities, head, or neck; however, brain cancer is in a separate category. Although it is easy to detect and treatable during the early stages, it often isn’t found until it has reached advanced stages or metastasized. Since there are no current guidelines for routine oral cancer screening, it can go undetected for years, which contributes to its high death rate.
Only 43% of people diagnosed with oral cancer survive 5 years or longer. However, when detected early, there is an 80% to 90% survival rate. Researchers report that 80% of new cases can be found early through oral cancer screenings at routine dental appointments.
You Don’t Have to Smoke to be at Risk
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a smoker to be at risk of oral cancer. Although tobacco and drinking a lot of alcohol can increase your odds, it can affect anyone, no matter your age or gender. People with a family history of oral cancer or those with HPV are more likely to be at risk.
Even if you don’t have any risk factors, it’s best to have an oral cancer screening at each routine appointment. Your dentist will conduct a quick examination of your mouth to look for anything concerning. If they find anything suspicious, they may request a biopsy to have tested in a laboratory. They’ll inform you of the results and if any additional treatments are needed.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
If you develop any signs or symptoms of oral cancer in between regular dental appointments, don’t wait to contact your dentist. The early warning signs include:
- Sores or lesions that won’t heal.
- Red patches or white spots in or near the mouth.
- Lumps or thickening of the soft tissues.
- Mouth or ear pain.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Loose teeth or bite changes.
- Feeling like something is caught in your throat.
Never ignore any changes to your oral health. With a regular oral cancer screening at your cleaning and checkup, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your mouth is healthy.
About Dr. Anthony Giamberardino
Dr. Giamberardino earned his dental degree from the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and has regularly continued his education in many specialties, like restorative and cosmetic dentistry. He focuses on prevention to help each patient achieve their best smile. If you need an oral cancer screening, contact our office at (339) 647-6725.