Oral Cancer Awareness
Written By: Carly Peterschmidt, DMD
Have you ever wondered why your dentist or dental hygienist asks you to stick out your tongue while they examining your mouth? It is not to make you look silly. The tongue is the most common place for oral cancer to occur, so an inspection beyond the top surface, including the sides and underneath the tongue are very important. Oral cancer can also appear on the lips, cheeks, gums, floor of the mouth, throat, or roof of the mouth.
Unfortunately, current statistics show that 11,230 Americans per year die due to oral cancer and we would like to help prevent this from happening to you or those you love. It is important to have an oral cancer screening with a dental professional at least annually, even if you do not have any teeth.
When to Call Your Dentist
If you notice any of the following, please call your trusted dental health professional:
- Red or white patches
- A sore or irritation that doesn’t go away
- Pain or tenderness
- Difficulty with chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw
- A change in the way your teeth fit together
- The feeling of a sore throat or something caught in the throat that doesn’t go away
- Hoarseness or a change in voice
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
There are certain lifestyle choices that can increase the risk of oral cancer There are also uncontrollable factors to be aware of:
- Use of tobacco, including smokeless versions; the more one uses, the higher the risk
- Heavy alcohol usage, defined by the CDC as 2 or more drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted, has been associated with throat cancers at the back of the mouth; The CDC recommends that 11 to 12 year old boys and girls get two doses of the HPV vaccine to aid in prevention
- Poor nutrition
- Prolonged UV sunlight exposure
- Male gender (twice as likely as females)
- Those ages 55 and older
With this information, we hope that you will feel more educated about how to protect yourself and others. For more information from some trusted sources on this topic, please follow the links listed below.