November is Mouth Cancer Action Month - giving me a good opportunity to again call attention to this growing problem.
The entire team at Jeff M. Morrison & Associates DDS - from the front desk staff to the Dental Hygienists - as well as the American Dental Association, recommends that you schedule regular cleanings and exams twice a year. During the "exam", in addition to looking at your teeth, I check everything from your lips all the way to the back of your throat. That's a lot of surface area. I'm looking for any changes - such as redness, lumps, lesions, pain, or changes in how your teeth fit together - anything that may indicate a problem. Mouth cancer can often be spotted in its early stages and during my exam I can see parts of your mouth that you may not easily see yourself. If I find something unusual - and I have a number of times - I'll refer you to a specialist for further follow-up.
Most cases of oral cancer are linked to tobacco and alcohol use, and if tobacco and alcohol are consumed together the risk is even greater. Recent reports have linked oral cancer to a virus (HPV) that affects the skin that lines the moist areas of the body. HPV, the primary cause of cervical cancer, can be spread through oral sex, and research now suggests that it could soon rival smoking and drinking as one of the main causes of oral cancer. Once a disease of old men, oral cancer is now seen more and more in younger men and women - many of whom have never used tobacco.
The death rate associated with oral cancer is particularly high not because it's hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development. Another obstacle to early discovery (and better outcomes) is that HPV is contributing more to the incidence rate of oral cancers, particularly in the back part of the mouth (such as the tonsils or the base of the tongue) which are difficult to see and many times does not produce visible lesions or discolorations that have been the early warning signs of the disease.
If you notice any changes between your regular dental checkups don't hesitate to give us a call. What "changes" should you be looking for? According to The American Dental Association, the symptoms of oral cancer can include:
- · A sore or irritation that doesn't go away
- · Red or white patches
- · Pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
- · A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
- · Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
- · A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
Keeping our patients healthy is our priority. If you suspect a problem give us a call at 919 755 3450. We will fit you in right away for an exam. If you have a friend or family member you are concerned about - due to their risk for oral cancer or symptoms they may be having - I encourage you to share this information with them.
For more information about oral cancer please visit: http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/