Why should you visit the dentist, two or more times per year? To prevent and find cavities. To prevent and find gum disease. To find oral cancer. The answer is all of the above. We know that most people realize that we will be looking for any signs of tooth decay or periodontal problems.
We know that most people realize that we will be looking for any signs of tooth decay or periodontal problems. But many people don’t consider the fact that we can be part of the first line of defense against oral cancer.
We don’t treat oral cancer at DocMark General & Cosmetic Dentistry, but we can help identify early, which will greatly improve your odds of beating this potentially deadly disease.
If you have not visited our dentist office in Myrtle Beach, SC in the past six months, please call us today at 843 916-0990.
Early Detection Makes a Big Difference
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. This disease that will cause an average of one person to die every hour in the United States.
And this year, more than 51,000 people will be diagnosed with some form of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
This also is why we want to strongly encourage you to make regular dental appointments. Our team of dental professionals will be checking for anything suspicious.
When oral cancer is detected early, the survival rate is between 80 and 90 percent. Too often, however, it is detected late, when the survival rate drops to 57 percent.
What are we looking for during an oral cancer screening? It can vary from person to person, but here are some general signs:
- Lumps in your neck or the soft tissues of your mouth
- Patches of white or red tissue (or a mix of both)
- Sores that bleed easily and don’t seem to heal
- Trouble chewing or swallowing
- A persistent sore throat or feeling of hoarseness
We also want to be clear. These symptoms don’t necessarily mean that someone has oral cancer. However, people with these symptoms are advised to talk to their doctor about getting tested.
We would much rather you get tested and find out it’s not cancer than to ignore it and find out too late that’s what it was.
Two Big Risk Factors
In 93 percent of oral cancer cases, doctors are able to identify a cause. That means you can’t completely eliminate any chance of getting this disease, but you can greatly reduce your risk by avoiding known risk factors.
The biggest contributor to all types of oral cancer is tobacco use. Smoking may be the most common form of tobacco use, but smokeless tobacco is just as dangerous. Health researchers have identified more than 70 cancer-causing chemicals that are used in various tobacco products.
The more you put those chemicals in your mouth, the more you are exposing yourself to those risks.
Alcohol use is also known to increase people’s risk of developing oral cancer. Heavy use (21 or more drinks per week) is a risk in and of itself. At the same time, combining alcohol and tobacco use can greatly increase your likelihood of cancer.
When you consume alcohol, it dries out your mouth. When your mouth is dry, it will absorb the chemicals in tobacco more quickly.
We can’t tell you what to do with this information, but our hope is that you will use it to make good decisions about your oral and overall health.
If you are a tobacco user and you would like to quit, there are programs that can help.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has a quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), where you can get started.
We Hope to See You Soon
Whether you are a new patient or a regular visitor to our office, we hope we will see you soon. To schedule an appointment at DocMark General & Cosmetic Dentistry, call 843 916-0990 or fill out our online form today.