It’s not just important to see your dentist regularly for the obvious, such as having your teeth cleaned and staying on top of decay, but they should also be performing regular oral cancer screenings, as well. As with any cancer, early detection is key.

Take Heed: April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month-A Good Time To Visit Your Dentist For A Screening

More than 21,000 men and 9,000 women in the United States annually receive oral cancer diagnoses, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Oral cancer can strike in the mouth and throat with most of these cancers beginning in the flat cells—squamous cells—that cover the surfaces of the mouth, tongue and lips. Some of the risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, infection with human papillomavirus, sun exposure, diet, betel nut use, and personal history of oral cancer.

Symptoms to watch for include patches inside the mouth or on the lips, a sore on the mouth or lips that doesn’t heal, bleeding in the mouth, loose teeth, pain or difficulty swallowing, lump in the neck, numbness of lower lip and chin, difficulty wearing dentures and a persistent earache.

The National Cancer Institute has resources on oral cancer at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/oral. The American Dental Association’s consumer website, MouthHeathy.org, also features information about oral cancer.

Ask Your Dentist

If your dental office is not conducting these exams regularly, speak to them about your concerns. At C R Dental Group, located in Dallas, Texas, we routinely perform oral cancer screenings on our patients during the dental hygiene appointment. This gives our patients added peace of mind knowing we are concerned about all aspects of their oral health.