You may not realize, but your dentist in Harris County can catch certain diseases sooner than even general practitioners! This is because diseases like oral cancer originate in the mouth and throat, so every time you visit your dentist, you’ll be more prepared to catch cancer early.
To celebrate Oral Cancer Awareness Month this April, he wanted to highlight important facts about oral cancer and how he works to protect patients during every routine exam.
How Prevalent is Oral Cancer?
According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, oral and oropharyngeal cancer collectively kill nearly one person every hour of every day of the year. That’s about 9,000 people every year dying from oral cancer alone. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons notes that about 50,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year, with 40 percent of those newly diagnosed not living past five years.
Keep in mind that those who do survive oral cancer typically have long-term side effects, including significant facial disfigurements and difficulty speaking and eating. The death rate for oral cancer is particularly high because patients don’t realize they have it until late in development. This makes it much harder to treat. Therefore, it’s important to know your risk factors, so you can plan accordingly. Those with high risk factors may want to visit the dentist more often or consider changes in their daily habits.
Am I at Risk?
Many risk factors are based on habits, so it is possible to lower your risk of oral cancer on your own. However, some factors are also based on genetics. For example, having a history of cancer in your family or being male automatically makes your risk go up. If you carry any of the following risk factors and haven’t had a recent dental exam from your dentist, consider scheduling an appointment soon. They include:
- Using tobacco products
- Drinking alcohol excessively
- Being over 40 years of age
- Prolonged exposure to UV rays (i.e. sunlight or tanning beds)
Additionally, patients infected with HPV, the human papillomavirus, are at higher risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer.
How Can I Protect Myself?
During your routine dental checkups, your dentist in Harris County performs a quick and painless analysis to protect patients from potentially deadly diseases like oral cancer. During the exam, he’ll take note of:
- Red or white patches
- Sores that bleed continuously or fail to heal (especially after two weeks)
- Lumps, bumps, thickening tissues and rough spots
You’ll also want to tell him of any soreness, hoarseness, or difficulty you have swallowing, chewing, speaking, or moving your jaw and tongue. If you notice pain, tenderness, or numbness in your mouth or lips, tell your dentist. You can also benefit from practicing monthly self-exams at home by examining your mouth and throat for these symptoms.
Even if you don’t believe you’re at risk, 25 percent of those diagnosed each year don’t engage in high risk behavior. Schedule an appointment with your dentist today!
About the Author
Dr. Alan Arrington earned his dental degree at the Medical College of Georgia. If you think you have symptoms of oral cancer, don’t hesitate to contact him at (706) 628-0011 or visit his website to schedule an appointment and confirm your oral health status!