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Unfortunately, mouth cancer is on the rise. It used to be prevalent mostly in males over forty, and today it is more common in women and at a younger age. All cancers are scary, and while oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth and throat, if detected early on it is highly survivable. Most oral cancer is caught by your dentist during an oral screening, than your doctor. Yet another reason to keep those scheduled dental cleanings and checkups!

Treating oral cancer depends on the stage the cancer is at, where it is located, and the size. Treatment can be done with surgery (and this is most common), radiation therapy and sometimes chemotherapy. While deadly, this is a highly survivable cancer, particularly when diagnosed in the early stages.

What should you be looking for?

— A lump or thickened area in the cheek
— A white or red patch on the gums, tonsils, lining of the mouth or tongue
— A sore throat or feeling that something is in the throat
— Having a hard time swallowing or chewing
— Numbness of the tongue
— Swelling in the jaw that makes your dentures hurt
— Pain in your mouth that lingers
— Having a hard time moving your jaw or tongue
— Unusual bleeding in the mouth
— Loosening of teeth
— Pain in the teeth or jaw
— Changes in your voice
— A lump in the neck
— Losing weight for no reason
— Bad breath that never improves
— Ear pain
— A mouth sore that leave

What causes cancers in the mouth? Most commonly found in people who smoke and drink heavily, it is now becoming more noticeable in women carrying the HPV-human papillomavirus. Overexposure to sunlight can cause lip cancer, and eating a poor diet and poor dental hygiene all put you at risk for mouth cancers.

What can you do? There are some things you can do to protect yourself from this deadly, but highly treatable disease. If you smoke, consider a tobacco cessation program to help you stop. If you drink, reduce your alcohol consumption and start eating a healthy, balanced diet if you currently don’t. Limit your exposure to HPV by getting vaccinated, and if you sunbathe be careful to protect your lips with sun block. Make sure to keep up a good oral hygiene routine, brushing and flossing your teeth and gums diligently. Finally, see your dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings.

If you would like to schedule a dental visit, or if you have any questions and concerns, please call our dental office today at 408-378-8500.