The good news: the incidence of oral cancers due to tobacco use are on the decline. The bad news: oral and oropharyngeal cancer caused by exposure to HPV-16 (Human Papilloma Virus 16) is on the rise. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States with 14 million new cases each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Oral Cancer screenings are vital

“Oral cancer is very scary because it can present itself as almost anything,” says Josephine Chang Pallotto, DDS, who runs her own dental practice in Lansing, MI. “It can be anything from a sore in the mouth that doesn’t go away after two weeks to a physical tumor.”

“You should be getting an oral cancer screening whenever you go to your dentist or primary care physician,” Pallotto says. “The doctor should be feeling for any lumps and checking the entire oral cavity including the floor of the mouth and neck.”

Warning signs that need to be shared with your doctor

  • An ulcer or sore that does not heal within 2-3 weeks
  • A red, white or black discoloration on the soft tissues in the mouth
  • Difficult or painful swallowing, or on-going sensation that things are sticking in the throat when swallowing
  • A persistent sore throat or hoarse voice
  • A swelling or lump in the mouth
  • A painless lump felt on the outside of the neck, lasting for at least two weeks
  • A numb feeling in the mouth or lips
  • Constant coughing
  • An earache on one side that persists for more than a few days

Your dentist may be your first line of defense

Dr. James Reisman and Dr. Jordana Contrucci stress the importance of regular dental visits and encourage their patients to share with them any areas of concern. Oral cancer is an issue on the rise but can be prevented if people are more proactive about their well being. The goal at C R Dental Group is to help patients, not only achieve good oral health, but we are fully committed to the success of their overall health as well.