What does it take to have a healthy mouth?
Most people would agree that being cavity-free is a good start. Most people would prefer to avoid gum disease.
And we are positive that no one wants to find out that they have oral cancer.
Nevertheless, each day in the United States, an average of 132 people receives this diagnosis from their doctor. More than 42,000 Americans will find out that they have some form of oral cancer this year, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation.
While we hope that none of our patients are among those statistics, we also know that early detection will increase the effectiveness of your treatment and improve your chances of surviving for the long term.
If you live in South Bend, IN, in Granger, or anywhere in between, we encourage you to visit our dentist office for a cleaning and examination. Tulip Tree Dental Care is committed to helping you be as healthy as you can, and that includes an oral cancer screening.
What You Can Do
To help you understand why we perform oral cancer screenings, we want to share some information from The Oral Cancer Foundation with you. This month is Oral Cancer Awareness Month in the United States.
When oral cancer is found early, 80 to 90 percent of those diagnosed survive. Patients who are not diagnosed until the later stages have a survival rate of 57 percent after five years.
That said, prevention is even better than early detection. Doctors are able to identify the cause of their patients’ oral cancer in 93 percent of cases. Because of this, we know many of things that increase your risk of developing this disease.
Here are the most common known causes of oral cancer:
Tobacco is the far and away the leading cause of oral cancer cases in the United States. In fact, tobacco users make up 75 percent of the people over age 50 who are diagnosed with this disease. Whether you are a smoker or a smokeless tobacco user, you are putting your health at risk every time to light up or chew.
All tobacco products contain chemicals that are known toxins and known carcinogens. It shouldn’t be a surprise that putting these things in your mouth will make you more likely to develop cancer.
Alcohol use is the second leading cause of oral cancer among Americans. In particular, people who consume 15 or more drinks per week are more likely to develop oral cancer.
Unfortunately, many people who use tobacco also use alcohol, and this combination makes you even more likely to develop oral cancer. Researchers know that alcohol can cause the soft tissues of your mouth to become dehydrated. When this happens, those tissues are more likely to absorb the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco products.
HPV is the human papillomavirus. A few strains of this virus, like HPV-16, have been linked to oral and other cancers.
You may not realize how widespread HPV is. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 8 out of every 10 Americans will contract HPV. Fortunately, this virus has little or no effect on 99 out of 100 people who have it. For the unlucky 1 percent, however, it can cause cancer.
Scientists have developed vaccines to protect against HPV. These vaccines are effective only if they are administered before a person acquires the virus.
For that reason, federal health officials recommend that people get vaccinated before they become sexually active. Talk to your doctor to find out if you or someone you love could benefit from one of these vaccines.
What To Watch For
We will check your mouth for any abnormalities whenever you visit us, but we also want you to know what to look for between your visits with us.
Here are the early warning signs of oral cancer:
- Discoloration (red, white, or both) of the soft tissues in your mouth
- Feeling hoarse for an extended period of time
- Having a sore that does not heal after two weeks
Any of those symptoms is a good reason to visit your doctor, but the ones that follow are signs that you should get checked as soon as you can:
- Lingering ear pain on one side of your head
- Lumps in your mouth or neck
- Sores that remain even after you have your dentures have been adjusted
- Problems swallowing
- Feeling like something is stuck in your throat
- Problems moving your tongue or jaw
- Numbness in or around your mouth
Take Care Of Yourself
We encourage you to visit Tulip Tree Dental Care a couple times per year for professional cleanings and examinations. We also encourage you to do things that will reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.
After all, we want you to keep visiting our dentist office in South Bend, IN, for several years to come.