Bethesda Dentist Shares Risks, Symptoms, and Prevention During Oral Cancer Awareness Month
This April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 54,000 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2021. Every appointment with our Bethesda dentist scans for any signs or symptoms, which is why it’s extremely important to maintain your routine visits to our office. Learn more about oral cancer below, including causes, symptoms, and treatments.
There are multiple areas that oral cancer is detected – the lips, cheeks, tongue, floor of the mouth, sinuses, throat, and the hard and soft palates. If it’s not diagnosed and treated early, it may be life threatening. There are several risk factors for oral cancer, some that may be more obvious than others. According to the American Cancer Society, men face twice the risk of developing oral cancer and men over the age of 50 face the greatest risk.
Further risks include tobacco use, whether by smoking or other tobacco products. People who smoke cigarettes and cigars are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than nonsmokers. People who use other tobacco products like chewing tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop a form of oral cancer in their cheeks, gums, and the linings of their lips due to the direct and immediate contact. Oral cancer is not the only health risk of tobacco use, but it is one of the greatest risks.
Other risk factors include excessive consumption of alcohol, which is six times more common in those who drink than others, a family history of cancer, excessive sun exposure, and certain HPV strains. It is also important to note that over 25% of the instances of oral cancer occur in people who do not smoke and only drink occasionally. Because of this information, visiting our office every six months for routine scans and x-rays is a small price to pay to catch any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Here are the most common symptoms of oral cancer:
• Lumps, bumps, swelling, or tough spots around the lips, gums, or other areas inside your mouth
• White, red, or speckled patches in your mouth
• Unexplained bleeding in your mouth
• Persistent sores that bleed easily and don’t go away or heal within 2 weeks
• Difficulty chewing or swallowing
• Chronic sore throat, as if something is caught in the back of your throat
• And more
If you’re noticing any of these symptoms, or something simply just doesn’t feel right when it comes to your mouth, teeth, or gums, we highly recommend scheduling an appointment with our Bethesda dentist right away to address these issues.
During your routine dental exam, we’ll conduct an oral cancer screening. We’ll externally check for any lumps or irregularities in your neck, face, and oral cavity. When we examine your mouth, we’ll look for any sores, discolored tissues, or other notable symptoms or signs. If we find a suspicious area, we call for a biopsy for further examination. We’ll explain the different kinds of biopsies and which one we find is best for you, since no two smiles or treatments are the same.
To get ahead and prevent oral cancer, there are simple but notorious changes that patients can make to protect their smile. Quitting the harmful habit of tobacco use will sharply cut down your chances of oral cancer, but other prevention methods include a well-balanced diet and properly caring for your skin when exposed to the sun with the help of protective lotions and lip balms. Ask us about ways to potentially detect any symptoms or signs early, including conducting a self-exam at home.
Call our office at (301) 652-3997 to schedule your routine visit and ask us more about oral cancer as well as numerous ways to protect your smile, not just today, but every day.