Am I at Risk for Oral Cancer?

Though most people don’t realize it, oral cancer is a very real and serious threat. In fact, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 52,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer this year alone. And of those 52,000 people, only around 57% will still be alive in five years.

So, what puts someone at risk for developing oral cancer? Unfortunately, there are several risk factors, some of which are out of our control. For example, age is a risk factor for oral cancer—the older we get, the greater our chances of developing the disease. Men are also at a higher risk than women, with around four times as many men diagnosed yearly. Other risk factors include heavy alcohol use, a family history of oral cancer, and HPV infection. It is estimated that around 70% of oral cancer cases are linked to HPV

But by far the biggest risk factor for oral cancer is tobacco use. Cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco increase our chances of developing oral cancer significantly. In fact, tobacco use is responsible for roughly 84% of all oral cancers in the United States.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Of course, smoking doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to develop oral cancer. However, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms so that you can seek treatment as early as possible if you do develop the disease.

The best way to protect yourself from oral cancer is to avoid tobacco use altogether. If you experience any persistent soreness or irritation in your mouth, see a doctor right away. Early detection is key when it comes to fighting oral cancer.

Some common signs and symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • A sore or irritation that doesn’t go away after two weeks
  • White or red patches in your mouth
  • Bleeding in your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • Weight loss
  • A lump on your neck or jawline

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

The best way to catch oral cancer early is to visit the dentist regularly. During a routine dental checkup, your dentist will examine your mouth for any signs of cancer. If they see anything suspicious, they will order further tests to confirm whether or not you have the disease. So, even if you don’t smoke and you don’t have any other risk factors for oral cancer, it’s still important to see the dentist every six months. It could save your life.

The Best Dental Exam in Denver

If you’re due for a dental checkup, don’t wait any longer. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Dewitt today. If you’re worried about the cost of dental care, remember that many dental insurance plans cover routine checkups and cleanings. Don’t let your insurance benefits go to waste! Call (303) 321-5656 or complete the online booking form to schedule an appointment. 

Categories: General Dentistry