When you think of reasons to visit the dentist, what comes to mind? Fighting tooth decay? Treating gum disease? Improving your smile? Maybe filling a cavity?
All of those are great reasons to visit our Huntsville, AL dental office. We want to give you one more to consider, however. You can get an oral cancer screening as part of your regular dental cleanings and exams.
We don’t want anyone to have cancer, especially cancer of the mouth or throat. Yet, we also know that early detection can make a huge difference in how effective your treatment can be. Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to take a moment to discuss this disease.
It’s also a good reminder to plan a visit to the office of Jennifer Perkins, DDS, soon. Call 256-801-0002 today.
Early Detection Matters
On an average day in the United States, more than 130 people find out that they have some form of oral cancer. One person dies every hour from this disease as well, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
The five-year survival rate for oral cancer when it is detected in the last stages is 57 percent. When oral cancer is detected early, the survival rate falls between 80 and 90 percent.
A screening by a dentist can help identify suspicious changes. This may be the reason you need to call your family doctor to get tested. This is definitely a case when knowing is better than ignoring a potential problem.
With that in mind, you should be aware of changes, too. These might include:
- Lumps, thick area, or rough spots on the soft tissues of your mouth
- Changes in how your teeth fit with each other
- Pain or trouble swallowing, speaking, or eating
- Sores that don’t seem to get better
- Red or white patches on the soft tissues of your mouth
You Can Reduce Your Risk
In 9 out of 10 cases of oral cancer, doctors are able to identify contributing factors to the disease. The three most common causes are all things people can do something to fight.
Tobacco use is far and away the leading cause of oral cancer in the United States. The most conservative estimates are that tobacco plays a role in 75 percent of oral cancers in America.
Alcohol use also can raise your risk of developing cancer of the mouth or throat. Specifically, people who consume 21 or more drinks per week are more likely to have this disease. It may go without saying, but combining alcohol and tobacco use is a bad combination as well.
The final factor is the human papillomavirus, specifically the strain known as HPV-16. This is the same strain that can raise women’s risk of cervical cancer. Health officials recommend getting vaccinated against HPV around age 12 for these reasons.
Dr. Perkins and every member of our team want you to be healthy. We enjoy seeing our patients’ smiles at our Huntsville, AL, and we hope you will continue to visit us for a long time. When you do, we’ll do everything we can to help.