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Oral Cancer Prevention

As oral cancer awareness month draws to a close, we at Atlantic Dental want to highlight the severity of the disease and the best practices to prevent it.
According to the oral cancer foundation, oral cancer causes 1 death per hour in the U.S. alone. Approximately 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year. The death rate and diagnosis are much higher than other forms of cancer because oral cancer is typically discovered in later stages of development. The problem is early signs of the cancer are not easily visible; damage and discoloration occur in the very back of the mouth and aren’t noticed by simply opening the mouth. Plus, when early stages take root, they generally don’t cause pain nor significant symptoms. To make matters worse, once an oral cancer patient is diagnosed with the disease a first time, they are 20 times more at risk for a second cancer.

oral cancer
“The right lateral tongue of this patient demonstrated the presence of an indurated, painless ulcer of unknown duration.
Diagnosis: Early stage squamous cell carcinoma”

In the wake of better-known organ cancers, oral cancer takes a backseat in the public mind. As you can see, however, it presents a greater danger in many ways. Why is a dangerous cancer like this one significantly widespread in this country?
Americans aren’t going to the dentist.
The biggest step towards preventing oral cancer is regular dental screenings. Dentists can detect the early signs of oral cancer that the average person misses in just a few minutes during a screening. While an age range of high-risk individuals exists (35-45 years), the wide span of related risk factors like the HPV virus makes the range of high-risk persons include anyone. Therefore, Atlantic Dental recommends you schedule at least two screenings a year, one every six months. This way, if a symptom does rear, your dentist can catch it at an early stage.
Other preventative measures are lifestyle choices. Limiting or eradicating tobacco use is extremely important for preventing any type of cancer, especially oral. Alcohol is also a factor in cancer development and limiting intake will significantly help your chances of preventing oral cancer.
Beyond controlling your vices, vaccines will help fend off leading viruses that cause oral cancer. In recent years, certain strands of HPV have been an increasing cause of oral cancers. HPV affects everyone and is so easily contracted that it puts society at large at great risk of developing more severe conditions.
With healthy lifestyle choices, proper vaccinations, and regular dental screenings, you will be on your way to preventing oral cancer.

1- The Oral Cancer Foundation. Oral Cancer Facts. Web. April 2016.