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Dental Health

Oral Cancer and Dental Care

When it comes to oral cancer, early detection is your best defense.
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Roughly one person every hour of every day will die of oral cancer. This year, almost 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer, and 9,700 will die from the disease. Of those newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in five years.

The death rate of oral cancer is so high because it is often diagnosed late in its development, usually when the cancer has already spread to another location, typically the lymph nodes of the neck. Individuals may not notice oral cancer in its early stages due to a lack of pain or symptoms. However, dentists are trained to recognize lesions and other signs that can be early indicators of oral cancer.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers, which are cancers of the very back part of the mouth and the top of the throat.

You may prevent oral cancer by not smoking or chewing tobacco, limiting your intake of alcohol and receiving the HPV vaccine at the appropriate time.

Signs of oral cancer

  • Mouth sores that bleed easily or do not heal
  • Mouth pain
  • Lumps, soreness or thickening in or around the mouth, cheek, throat or tongue
  • A white or red patch anywhere inside the mouth that doesn’t go away
  • Problems chewing or swallowing food
  • Swelling of the jaw
  • Loosening of the teeth
  • Voice changes
  • Pain in the ears

Be sure to visit your dentist regularly; it can improve your overall health.

Sources:American Cancer Society, The Oral Cancer Foundation