Every April, dentists and periodontal specialists observe Oral Cancer Awareness Month to promote awareness of this serious disease. Over 50,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer every year, but with frequent screenings and awareness campaigns, we can catch the signs of oral cancer. Dr. Brenda Paulen with health-centered dental practice Proudsmiles in Sandy Springs, GA wants you to know the facts about oral cancer so you can keep your healthy, beautiful smile for a lifetime.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
Any cancer occurring in the mouth, throat, tongue, lips, or tonsils is referred to broadly as oral cancer. This disease has been steadily on the rise in the United States and is responsible for over 330,000 deaths worldwide every year.
You’re probably familiar with one of the causes of oral cancer, which is tobacco use. Chewing tobacco, smoking, and other tobacco products have long been associated with oral cancer, as well as the lungs and more. You may be surprised to learn that HPV-16 (human papillomavirus), the same virus responsible for cervical cancer in women, is also a cause of oral cancer in both men and women.
Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms: When to See A Dentist
Dentists are adamant about educating patients on the signs and symptoms of oral cancer, and not just in patients who smoke. Many patients are at risk and need to be aware of potential warning signs
- Sores in the mouth that do not heal after 2 weeks
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Eroded areas on the lips or inside the mouth
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw
- Swelling, bumps, rough spots, or patches inside the mouth or on the lips
Early prevention is key to many diseases, including oral cancer. When detected early, survival rates are much higher and can be managed with minimally-invasive treatments.
Talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccine to protect yourself against HPV-16 infection, which is linked to oral cancer. Tell your dentist if you suspect you have been exposed to HPV so they can examine your mouth, throat, and neck for signs of HPV-16.
Preventing Oral Health Problems By Screening Early and Often
Every dental check-up at Proudsmiles includes a thorough screening for oral cancer. Our team examines the mouth, throat, and neck for signs of oral cancer, and we gather patient history to determine any risk factors. An oral cancer screening is quick and painless, so be sure to stay on top of your 6-month checkups and talk to Dr. Paulen and our dental care team if you find any symptoms. Schedule your appointment online today or call our office at (404) 418-7734.