Dental Checkups Are Not Just About Cavities
At The Gentle Art of Dentistry we encourage people to come in twice a year for a dental examination and cleaning. If you skip twice-yearly dental checkups because you don’t believe you have any cavities, perhaps getting an oral cancer screening is a more convincing reason to see your dentist regularly. (While your dentist is checking for oral cancer, we urge you to have a thorough dental checkup as well!)
Oral Cancers Don’t Get as Much Attention
In the last few decades, lung and breast cancer have attracted a lot of public attention. There is relatively less awareness of oral cancer even though it claims almost 10,000 lives every year in the United States. If you smoke or have become infected with HPV, you have a higher risk for developing oral cancer.
At The Gentle Art of Dentistry, we work to broaden awareness of oral cancer and the importance of early diagnosis. Courtesy of the CDC, Oral Cancer Foundation, and Johns Hopkins Medicine, here are 5 vital things to know about oral (mouth) and oropharyngeal (back of mouth and throat) cancers.
1. About 80% of people with oral cancer use some type of tobacco (cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipes).
2. 40% of individuals who receive late-stage diagnosis of oral cancer pass away within five years. The survival rate for early stage diagnosis is 90%.
3. In many cases, it is hardly possible for the individual to detect oral and oropharyngeal cancers because they can produce indistinct symptoms or no symptoms at all. Any abnormality in the mouth or throat, even if small and painless, should be analyzed by a dentist or doctor.
4. HPV (the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S.) is the most common cause of oropharyngeal cancer. Of the copious strains of HPV, HPV16 is the one most repeatedly linked to oropharyngeal cancer.
5. Black males have a significantly higher risk of dying from oral cancer than whites.
An oral cancer check is easy!
A visual oral cancer exam is relatively quick and convenient, especially as compared to other cancer screening tests such as colonoscopies and mammograms. If an abnormality is discovered during an exam, the patient is referred to an appropriate specialist for further testing and diagnosis.