Every hour, a person dies from oral cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2019 alone, 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. Although oral cancer is the 6th 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 dentists across the United States to offer oral cancer screenings for their patients during regular dental visits.
Pacific Dental Services® (PDS®)-supported dentists perform a standard oral soft tissue exam during each dental visit. In addition, the dentists also utilize the VELscope® Vx Enhanced Oral Assessment System, a handheld scope that uses natural tissue fluorescence to enable clinicians to visualize oral mucosal abnormalities before patients are able to see or feel them.
Many patients find themselves 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)
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer can present on the cheeks, lips, tongue, hard and soft palate, floor of the mouth, sinuses, and pharynx. Dentists 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
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®. Research shows that harmful bacteria and inflammation in the mouth can indicate and even cause systemic conditions throughout the body. Maladies of the mouth, including periodontal disease, may be linked with other medical conditions including oral cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and more.