April is oral cancer, head and neck cancer awareness month, recognizing the danger of oral cancer and instilling the importance of regular dental visits and proper dental hygiene. Oral cancer affects millions of Americans, and they often don’t realize they have it until they visit the dentist. If you are not visiting your general dentist regularly, you could miss the chance at early diagnosis and treatment, which can damage your long-term health. Taking your child to a kid friendly dentist regularly is a great idea and his or her dentist should screen for oral cancer at recall appointments. This awareness month is provided in part by the Oral Cancer Foundation, which offers various sources and educational materials to teach children and adults the importance of maintaining proper dental health.
The Dangers of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer, which affects the mouth and throat, kills approximately one person for every hour of every day a year. Once diagnosed, about 50 percent of the patients live five years, and that is with early diagnosis. Even those who do survive may struggle with facial abnormalities and long-term problems involving eating and speaking. The best course of action for oral cancer is early diagnosis and treatment, thus improving your chances of surviving the cancer.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Another danger of oral cancer is the lack of signs and symptoms during the early stages. While a general dentist can see these early signs, you likely will not notice them until the cancer gets to a more advanced stage. Symptoms of oral cancer include:
· White or red patches and spots in the mouth
· Sores that bleed easily and don’t heal
· Unexplained swelling of the jaw
· A chronic sore throat
· A change in the voice
· Lumps, bumps or rough spots on the gums, lips, or anywhere inside the mouth
· Ear pain
· Dramatic weight loss
These symptoms may come one at a time, or they may seemingly develop and become aggressive all at once.
How to Prevent Oral Cancer
The best way to prevent oral/head and neck cancer is by taking good care of your teeth and mouth. To prevent oral/head and neck cancer, reduce sugar and alcohol intake, don’t smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco products, and limit your exposure to the sun’s harsh UV rays. Proper dental hygiene, including brushing and flossing daily, is incredibly important not just for general dental health but to prevent oral cancer as well. Finally, see your dentist regularly, at least every six months, for a checkup and cleaning.