Although Oral Cancer Awareness Month was in April, staying vigilant in the fight against oral cancer never stops. Over 50,000 people are diagnosed with this disease every year, and it can happen to anyone, not just people who smoke. Dr. Datta Malyavantham’s Ridgetop Dental Group team in Northern VA wants all of their patients to know the risks, symptoms, and facts about oral cancer to maintain a healthy, beautiful smile.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
Cancer that occurs in the mouth, tongue, tonsils, and lips is referred to as oral cancer. Cancer of the throat is also considered oral cancer. This disease is steadily on the rise in the United States and is responsible for 330,000 deaths worldwide each year.
Oral cancer has two common causes. You’re probably familiar with its association with tobacco use, as smoking and chewing tobacco have long been linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, lungs, and more. You may be surprised to learn that oral cancer is also caused by exposure to HPV-16 (human papillomavirus), the same virus responsible for deadly cervical cancer in women.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer and When to See a Dentist
Many people falsely assume that if they don’t smoke, they are not at risk for oral cancer. Unfortunately, many patients are at risk and need to be aware of potential warning signs:
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Persistent sores in the mouth that do not heal after 2 weeks
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw
- Swelling, bumps, rough spots, white or red patches, or eroded areas on the lips or inside the mouth
See a dentist soon if you detect any of these serious oral health problems. When detected early, oral cancer patients have a high survival rate and can be managed with minimally-invasive treatments.
Be sure to talk to your dentist if you suspect you have been exposed to HPV, as it is one of the leading causes of oral cancer. Talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccine.
Preventing Oral Health Problems By Screening Early and Often
Every dental check-up at Ridgetop Dental Group includes a thorough screening for oral cancer. Our team examines the mouth, throat, and neck for signs of oral cancer, and we gather patient history to determine any risk factors. An oral cancer screening is quick and painless, so be sure to stay on top of your 6-month checkups and talk to your dentist if you find any symptoms. Schedule your appointment online today or call our office.