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April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Updated: Feb 15

When thinking of oral health, more times than not we think of brushing our teeth, flossing, and utilizing our mouthwash regularly to prevent cavities and banishing bad breath. The month of April highlights a focus shift: Oral Cancer. Oral cancer refers to cancer of the mouth, while pharyngeal cancer refers to cancer of the pharynx, or back of the throat.


Factors of Risk

There are factors or behaviors that can increase chances of developing oral cancer such as:

  • Tobacco use of any kind

  • Consistent, heavy alcohol use

  • Excessive sun exposure to your lips

  • A sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)

  • A weakened immune system

Common Symptoms

In between dental visits, it is important to be mindful of potential signs and symptoms that could be related to oral cancer. Warning signs of mouth and throat cancers include the following:

  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing, or difficulty moving your jaw or tongue

  • Numbness of the tongue or other areas in your mouth

  • Persistent earaches

  • Sores, soreness, or irritation in the mouth, throat, lip that won't heal

  • A white or red spot in your mouth, especially on the mucosal membrane (inside cheek)

  • Bleeding in the mouth that lasts more than a week

Prevention & Early Detection

Although there are no proven ways to prevent oral cancer, there are preventative steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Stray away from all uses of tobacco. Using tobacco products, whether smoked or chewed, exposes the cells in your mouth to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals.

  • Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all. Excessive alcohol use can irritate the cells in your mouth, making them vulnerable to mouth cancer.

  • Protect the skin on your lips. Lip cancer is directly related to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. Shield your lips from the sun by applying lip balm with high SPF.

  • See your dentist regularly. Your dentists and dental hygienists are the first to notice abnormalities in your mouth.

The bottom line is: no cancer is minor. The best way to reduce the risk of contracting oral cancer is by scheduling regular check-ups and screenings with our dental professional: Dr. Jeffery Nielsen. Make a commitment to your oral health by scheduling an oral cancer examination with your regular preventative appointments.


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