April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and we want to do our part to bring attention to this disease which is more common than you may think. It is estimated by The American Cancer Society that over 50,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year.
Early detection is key! Make sure you schedule regular cleanings - we incorporate oral cancer screenings at every check up. We also encourage everyone to practice and complete at home screenings and contact your dentist if you notice any changes.
At home screening:
Face: Look at your face and neck for any lumps, bumps, swelling, changes in color or size, sores, moles or growths that is only on one side of your face.
Neck: Press along the sides and front of the neck and check for any tenderness or lumps.
Lips: Pull your lower lip down and check for any sores or color changes. Use your thumb and finger to feel the lip for any lumps, bumps or changes in texture. Repeat this same step for your upper lip.
Cheek: Examine your inner cheeks for red, white or dark patches. Put your index finger on the inside of your cheek and your thumb on the outside. Gently squeeze and roll both sides of your cheeks between your fingers and check for any lumps, bumps or tenderness.
Roof of Mouth: Tilt your head back and open your mouth, examine and look for any signs of discoloration, lumps. You can also touch to check for bumps.
Floor of Mouth & Tongue:Extend your tongue and look at the top surface for color and texture. Pull your tongue forward to look at both sides. Examine the underside of the tongue for color changes, lumps or swelling.
Many early symptoms get overlooked or dismissed as a common cold or toothache. It is important to contact your dentist if you have any concerns.
Persistent lip or mouth pain or sores that do not heal
A lump or thickening in the cheek or lips
A white patch or red patch on the lips, gums, tongue, tonsil or lining of the mouth
A sore throat or persistent feeling that something is caught in the throat
Difficulty chewing or swallowing
Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth
Jaw swelling that makes dentures hurt or fit poorly
Pain in the teeth or jaw
A lump in the neck
Persistent bad breath
Who is at risk?
According to cancercenter.com men over the age of 55 are at the highest risk. Men are more than twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer, possibly in correlation with heavy long term use of alcohol and tobacco products, which is seen more commonly in men than in women.
With any gender, the risk of oral cancer increases with age. Over 60% of people diagnosed are over the age 55, the average age at diagnosis being 62. This is not to say younger people can’t develop the disease.
Some other risk factors include prolonged UV light exposure (sun, tanning beds), marijuana use, poor oral hygiene, poor diet and certain genetic syndromes and immune deficiencies.
If you haven’t had a dental cleaning in the past 6 months, schedule an appointment with us today. We perform an oral cancer screening at every visit.