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Don’t Be A Fool About Oral Cancer

  • April 4, 2016

When patients visit our dentist office in Columbia, SC, there are a few things we don’t want to see:

• Tooth decay

• Gum disease

• Oral cancer

None of those are good for your oral health, but today we are focusing on the last item on that list. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to share some information about this disease.

Our team at Total Dental Care of South Carolina wants you and your family to know what you look for and to understand what you can do to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.

By The Numbers

The Oral Cancer Foundation has a website with lots of information about this disease, including how common it is in the United States. Here are a few facts from their website.

An estimated 42,250 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year

An estimated 9,575 people die from oral cancer this year. That’s approximately one person every hour.

On an average day, 132 Americans will learn that they have been diagnosed with oral cancer.

About half the people who are diagnosed with oral cancer will die within five years.

Survival rates increase to 80 percent or higher when oral cancer is detected early.

Signs And Symptoms

When you visit our office for routine cleanings and examinations, we pay attention to anything abnormal in your mouth.

But we also know that a lot can happen between your visits to our office. We encourage you to learn the symptoms of oral cancer, so you will know whether you should make an appointment with your doctor.

Pay attention if you notice any of these things:

  • Red, white, or both kinds of discoloration of the soft tissues in your mouth
  • Lingering feeling of being hoarse
  • Having a sore that has not healed after two weeks
  • Having a sore that does not heal after your dentures are adjusted
  • Feeling numb in or around your mouth
  • Problems moving your mouth, tongue, or lips
  • Problems swallowing
  • Feeling like something is stuck in your throat
  • Chronic ear pain on one side of your face
  • Thickness or lumps in your mouth or neck

It’s important to point out that most of these symptoms do not cause any pain. Oral cancer can grow without causing any noticeable disruption to your life.

Trouble With A Capital T

Tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of oral cancer across the United States.

Among people 50 and over who are diagnosed with oral cancer, 75 percent are tobacco users.

The University of California, San Francisco conducted a study of oral cancer patients, and 80 percent of the people in that study were smokers.

Another study compared rural women in North Carolina who used smokeless tobacco with women who did not use any tobacco products. They found that smokeless tobacco users were 14 times more likely to develop oral cancer, and long-term users (25 years or more) were 50 times more likely to have this disease.

There is no such thing as a safe tobacco product. Cigarettes, chew, dip, and cigars all contain chemicals that are known to cause cancer.

Using alcohol (which is the second-leading cause of oral cancer) compounds the risks associated with tobacco.

Alcohol can cause the soft tissue in your mouth to become dehydrated. When this happens, it’s easier for the toxic chemicals in tobacco to be absorbed into the soft tissues in your mouth.

Understanding HPV

You may have heard of HPV, which is the human papillomavirus.

While it does not cause oral cancer as frequently as tobacco or alcohol use, the percent of oral cancer cases among non-tobacco users is rising because of HPV.

For a vast majority of people, HPV is essentially harmless. For an unfortunate 1 percent of the population, the virus can develop into oral and other kinds of cancer, however.

A vaccine to protect against HPV does exist, but it is only effective if you receive the vaccine before you are exposed to the virus. To find out if you or someone you love could benefit from an HPV vaccine, talk to your physician.

Get Checked And Check Yourself

We will repeat what we said at the start of this post. We hope we never find any signs of oral cancer, but if we do, we will let you know. Early detection improves the effectiveness of treatment and increases the odds that we will keep seeing your smiling face for years and years to come at Total Dental Care of South Carolina.

If you have not yet scheduled your next routine cleaning and examination, call our dentist office in Columbia, SC, at 803-272-4162 or fill out our online form.


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