We’re constantly learning more about what is and isn’t safe for our mouths. While the major concerns most patients have relate to cavities and gum disease, there are other pressing problems that can be forgotten.
Oral cancer is an oft-overlooked disease that can be fatal. While it doesn’t get the same publicity as other forms of cancer, it’s still incredibly prevalent – this year alone, about 43,350 Americans will be diagnosed with oral/pharyngeal (throat) cancer. We don’t want to see you becoming a part of this statistic. To this end, Cherry Creek Dentistry does whatever we can to boost your cancer prevention. Read on for some cancer stats, and a discussion of exactly what you and your dentists can do to prevent disease.
Am I At a High Risk for Oral Cancer?
Education is the first step toward disease prevention. By learning the facts, you acknowledge the reality of oral cancer and gain an understanding of how to keep it out of your life.
While the medical world continues to fuel countless studies into cancer prevention and treatment, there are complicating factors that keep cancer development rates high. Oral cancer has seen an unfortunate boost with the rise of HPV.
Oral cancer’s mortality rate is distressingly high, because the disease is frequently detected late in its life. This happens because signs of cancerous tissue in the mouth and throat are difficult to spot. Of newly diagnosed oral cancer patients, only 57% will be alive in five years. But early detection makes a big difference. When oral cancer is caught its its beginning stages, patients have an 80-90% chance of surviving the next five years.
So how do you know whether you’re at risk? There are certain factors that can lead to heightened chances of developing oral cancer. These include
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol use
- Genetic predisposition
- Presence of HPV
- Age (2/3 of oral cancer patients are over 55)
- Gender (men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women, but this may be due primarily to their increased tobacco and alcohol use)
- Emerging research points to other problematic practices being linked to oral cancer, including excessive use of mouthwash with alcohol and poor oral hygiene
Oral Cancer Screening in Denver
Just why is oral cancer so often detected once it’s too late? Because tissue abnormalities can be small, painless, and hard to spot. Cancer typically develops on the
- Front 2/3 of the tongue
- The gums
- The inside of the cheeks
- The roof of the mouth
- The bottom of the mouth, beneath the tongue
- The area behind your wisdom teeth, at the back of your mouth
…none of which are areas that patients can easily monitor on their own. This is why oral cancer screenings are paramount.
At Cherry Creek Dentistry, screenings and exams go hand in hand. When you visit our office for a cleaning, Dr. Hargreaves will carefully screen your mouth and throat for signs of problems. By gaining the confirmation that your mouth is lesion-free, your mind will be put at ease.
Maintaining Sound Oral Health
Your oral health is a vital part of your whole body health. The mouth is connected to many other parts of your body – and vice versa. Because your mouth is easily accessible, it’s a great place to focus your disease prevention and ongoing upkeep. Consistent brushing, regular flossing, and paying careful attention to what your mouth is telling you are the right steps to take at home. Schedule regular dental exams (about every 6 months, although we may recommend more based on your risk factors) to keep up with professional monitoring.
If you have any questions about keeping oral cancer at bay, just get in touch!