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  • Sunshine City Dentistry

Oral Cancer Awareness Month - Importance of Oral Screenings

Importance of Oral Screenings

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month!

Did you know that about 50,000 people a year are diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States each year, and about 10,000 will die from the disease. That’s pretty serious, and why it’s so important to have oral screenings during your dental checkups.

What is an oral cancer screening?

Oral cancer screenings are examinations performed by a dentist to look for cancer or precancerous signs in the mouth. The goal is to detect signs early, so it can be treated in a timely and effective manner. The earlier oral cancer is detected, the more favorable treatment and outcomes can be.

Oral cancer can be found on the lips, inside the mouth, tonsils, salivary glands, esophagus, back of the throat, tongue, and other soft tissues of the mouth.

Most dentists will perform an examination of your mouth during your routine dental cleaning visit. If necessary, additional tests may be required to identify areas of abnormal cells in your mouth.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

If you have a high risk of oral cancer, screenings are especially important.

High risk patients are those who:

  • Use tobacco of any kind — including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, pipes, etc.

  • Consume alcohol

  • Have previous oral cancer

  • Have significant sun exposure (which increases risk of lip cancer)

  • Have HPV (human papillomavirus)

However, about 30% of oral cancer patients have no risk factors, which is why screening is so important.

What to expect in an oral cancer screening exam

It’s painless and quick. Typically, your dentist will look over the inside of your mouth to check for red or white patches or mouth sores, feeling for lumps or any other abnormalities. Your throat/neck may also be examined for lumps.

Besides lumps and discoloration, you may feel symptoms that are reminiscent of a cold. If these symptoms last more than two weeks, it’s best to visit your doctor or dentist to rule out oral cancer.

Other symptoms may include:

  • A sore throat

  • Difficult or painful swallowing

  • Difficult or painful chewing

  • Jaw pain or stiffness

  • Tongue pain

  • Loose teeth

  • A sore that doesn’t heal

  • A sore that bleeds

Dentists, like Dr. Moccia at Sunshine City Dentistry, are experts in the anatomy of the human mouth and perform oral cancer screenings routinely for patients. If you feel an abnormal lump or discoloration in the mouth, it’s best to come in right away for a checkup. Only 30% of patients diagnosed do not have any risk factors.

Remember, like all precautionary screenings, early diagnosis is your best method to combat oral cancer. Schedule your dental checkup with Dr. Moccia today!


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