Although oral cancer is the sixth most common form of cancer, awareness about this deadly disease is low. In recognition of Oral Cancer Awareness Month this April, The Oral Cancer Foundation encourages clinicians across the United States to offer oral cancer screenings for their patients during regular dental visits. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2019, approximately 53,000 people in the U.S. will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer and an estimated 10,860 will die of these cancers.
Many patients are ill-informed of the risk factors of oral cancer. Prevention starts with spreading awareness to all, especially to those who may be more susceptible. An oral cancer diagnosis may be caused by environmental or inherited factors including, but not limited to:
- A family history of oral cancer
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol use
- Gender (men are twice as likely to get oral cancer)
- Advanced age (most cases are diagnosed over the age of 40)
- Patients diagnosed with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Oral cancer can present on the cheeks, lips, tongue, hard and soft palate, the floor of the mouth, sinuses, and pharynx. Oral health professionals look for a number of symptoms when screening their patients including, but not limited to:
- A mouth sore that does not heal
- A white or reddish patch inside the mouth
- One or several growths in the mouth
- One or more loose teeth
- Pain in the mouth and ears
- Difficulty swallowing
Pacific Dental Services® (PDS®)—supported practices are committed to bringing awareness to patients about the link between oral health and whole-body health – what PDS and its supported practices call the Mouth-Body Connection®.