Since April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month, we would like to take this opportunity to remind all of our patients about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene while you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment. Periodically visiting your dentist during your orthodontic treatment will not only help keep your teeth and mouth healthy while you have braces, but will also help maintain the rest of your body healthy.
While some may think oral cancer is rare, it will cause over 8,000 deaths each year, or about one person per hour every hour of the day. This makes it the sixth-most common diagnosed form of the disease. And according to the Oral Cancer Foundation more than 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal (throat) cancer this year alone. Public awareness about this serious disease and its risk factors is crucial to saving lives. Dentists are in a unique position to perform oral screenings every day that can help us identify abnormalities in the mouth at the earliest stage.
Are You At Risk?
The fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients are young, healthy, nonsmoking individuals. That’s why it is more important than ever for all adults to have regular oral cancer screenings. Knowing the risks can also help you make educated decisions about your health. There are several risk factors for oral cancer, including:
- Smoking and tobacco use are long-term historic causes of oral cancer.
- Heavy alcohol use makes you more likely to develop oral cancer.
- The HPV virus, a sexually-transmitted disease, is the leading cause of oropharyngeal (the back part of the mouth) cancer.
Recognize the symptoms
It is highly recommended that you talk to your dentist immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Sores in the mouth that bleed easily or do not heal
- A thick or hard spot or lump
- A roughened or crusted area
- Numbness, pain or tenderness
The importance of early detection
Many people do not realize that oral cancer screenings are typically a part of a more extensive exam performed during routine visits to the dentist. Dentists can be a first line of defense in identifying abnormalities in the mouth, which could be signs of oral cancer. A thorough oral cancer screening takes less than five minutes so please get checked, and stay a step ahead of oral cancer. When found early, oral cancers have an 80 to 90 percent survival rate so please make sure to visit your dentist regularly.
Please take care of your teeth and let us now if you have any questions about your oral health during your next adjustment appointment.