Have you noticed any small red or white dots in your mouth recently? Such dots or patches could be harmless and fade on their own – but they could also be a warning sign of oral cancer. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, over 50,000 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2019. Receiving a diagnosis early, before oral cancer has time to develop further and spread, is key to successful treatment. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, so there is no better time than now to learn how you can partner with a local dentist for an oral cancer screening in Fairfax.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer refers to instances of the deadly disease in the mouth and parts of the throat, including the gums, tongue, lips, cheeks, esophagus, tonsils and middle region of the throat. According to the National Institutes of Health, oral cancers represent the sixth most common cancers in the world.
You should alert your dentist if you experience any of these warning signs of oral cancer:
- Red or white patches of skin
- Lumps or thickened areas of skin
- Unexplained mouth pain or tenderness
- A roughened or crusted area of the mouth
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving your tongue or jaw
4 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Oral Cancer
While oral cancer cannot always be prevented, you can lower your risk of developing the disease by:
- Looking daily for changes in the soft tissues of your mouth as part of your oral hygiene routine
- Avoiding all tobacco products
- Avoiding heavy alcohol consumption
- Visiting your dentist for regular oral cancer screenings
Why is an Oral Cancer Screening Important?
Detecting oral cancer early on is critical to overcoming it – indeed, the five-year survival rate for persons diagnosed with oral cancer early is 75%, according to the National Institute of Dental Craniofacial Research. For those who do not catch oral cancer until it has spread, the five-year survival rate is only 20%.
For this reason, an oral cancer screening is typically included as part of every routine dental checkup. During the screening, your dentist will:
- Visually examine the mouth for signs of oral cancer using special observation tools
- Manually examine the mouth, face and neck for unusual bumps and masses
- Ask questions regarding your exposure to oral cancer risk factors (e.g., smoking tobacco)
- Ask questions to help identify nonvisible symptoms of oral cancer (e.g., sore throat or scratchy voice)
The American Dental Association recommends seeing a dentist every six months for a routine dental exam and oral cancer screening.
This April, put your dental health – and overall health – front and center by partnering with a dentist in Fairfax to check for oral cancer.
About the Author
With over 20 years of clinical experience, Dr. Sanae Berrada knows how to deliver high-quality, personalized dental care to her patients in Fairfax. An active member of the Academy of General Dentistry, she routinely screens men and women for oral cancer during their biannual dental checkups at Fairfax Dental Esthetics. Patients old and new can contact Dr. Berrada through her website, by calling 703-279-3400, or by searching for a Cigna Dental dentist in Fairfax.