Mouthing off against oral cancer
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and the Academy of General Dentistry recommends that patients receive a dental exam from a general dentist every six moths. Dental exams not only help to decrease a patient's risk of oral diseases, such as cavities and periodontal disease, but they also may help to diagnose other, sometimes life-threatening medical conditions, such as oral cancer.
CHICAGO (March 29, 2012) — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year, and more than 8,000 deaths occur annually. The five-year survival rate for oral cancers is roughly 50%.
In observance of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, the Academy of General Dentistry recommends that patients receive a dental exam from a general dentist every six months. Dental exams not only help to decrease a patient’s risk of oral diseases, such as cavities and periodontal disease, but they also may help to diagnose other, sometimes life-threatening medical conditions, such as oral cancer.
“The next time you visit your dentist, ask about an oral cancer screening,” says AGD spokesperson Seung-Hee Rhee, DDS, FAGD. “Your dentist will feel for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks, and oral cavity and thoroughly examine the soft tissues in your mouth, specifically looking for any sores or discolored tissues. Although you may have already been receiving this screening from your dentist, it’s a good idea to confirm that this screening is a part, and will remain a part, of your regular exam.”
Although oral cancer is sometimes difficult to self-diagnose, warning signs may include bleeding sores, sores that do not heal, lumps, thick, hard spots, soreness or feeling that something is caught in the throat, difficulty chewing or swallowing, ear pain, difficulty moving the jaw or tongue, hoarseness, and numbness of the tongue, as well as changes in the way teeth fit together.
“If it is not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can be deadly. Treatment for advanced stage oral cancer may lead to chronic pain, loss of function, permanent facial and oral disfigurement following surgery,” says Dr. Rhee. “The earlier the cancer is detected and treated, the better the outcome.”
Scientists are not sure of the exact cause of oral cancer. However, risk factors include tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, age, gender (oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women), and race (oral cancer occurs more frequently in African Americans than it does in Caucasians). New research has uncovered a connection between the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and oral cancer.
“Early detection is key to increasing the survival rate for cancers of the oral cavity,” says Dr. Rhee. “In addition to brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily, scheduling two visits with your general dentist each year helps to ensure that any concerns are caught early on.”
To learn more about this and many other oral health topics, visit www.KnowYourTeeth.com.
www.KnowYourTeeth.com is the Academy of General Dentistry’s source of consumer information on dental care and oral health. Its goal is to provide reliable information in a format that is easy to use and navigate, and to provide the tools that will help consumers of all ages to care for their teeth and other aspects of oral care. The website answers important dental health questions, offers the latest information on current dental treatments and tips for first-rate oral hygiene, and can help visitors find qualified dentists near where they live or work.
About the Academy of General Dentistry
The Academy of General Dentistry is a professional association of more than 37,000 general dentists dedicated to providing quality dental care and oral health education to the public. AGD members stay up-to-date in their profession through a commitment to continuing education. Founded in 1952, the AGD is the second largest dental association in the United States, and it is the only association that exclusively represents the needs and interests of general dentists. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management, and overall coordination of services related to patients’ oral health needs. For more information about the AGD, visit www.agd.org.