Preventive dental care is the most important thing that you can do for your family’s oral health. Avoiding problems like tooth decay and gum disease — or at least catching those problems in the early stages — is much, much better than the alternative.
But there’s an even more important reason than fighting cavities for you to schedule routine dental cleanings and exams at our dentist office in Johnson City, NY.
We conduct oral cancer screenings as part of our routine exams for our patients. This year, approximately 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
Finding it early means you have a better than 80 percent chance that your treatment will be successful. When found in the latter stages, the survival rate dips to 57 percent.
Dr. Jerry Farrell and the rest of our team do not want anyone to have oral cancer. But if you do, we want you to have the best chance of beating it.
This is why we hope you will call 607-304-3993 or contact us online to request a dental exam (including a cancer screening) soon. In the meantime, take a moment to learn the symptoms of this disease, the biggest risk factors, and some steps you could take to reduce your risk.
Know the Symptoms
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, which is why we are making a point of sharing this information with you now. It’s also a good reason to remind you of the signs that you or someone you love may have this disease.
Please note that the ADA recommends contacting your doctor if any of these symptoms persist for two weeks or longer:
- Patches of soft tissue that look white, red, or a mix of both
- Persistent feeling like something is caught in your throat
- Persistent sore throat or hoarse feeling
- Problems chewing or swallowing food
- Problems moving your jaw or tongue
- Numbness in your tongue or other parts of your mouth
- Lumps in the soft tissue of your mouth, your neck, or your throat
These symptoms may not be cancer, but it is much better to get tested to know for sure whether you should begin treatment.
Know the Risks
A vast majority of oral cancer cases (93 percent) have an identifiable cause or causes. That leaves 7 percent of cases in which the cause is unknown.
You may not be able to completely eliminate your risk of this disease, but you can help yourself by knowing the biggest risk factors.
First and foremost, tobacco use greatly increases your odds of developing oral cancer.
Men who are smokers are more than 27 times more likely to develop this disease than male nonsmokers. Women who smoke are six times more likely to have oral cancer than female nonsmokers.
Smokeless tobacco products are just as dangerous, and they create an even greater risk for some forms for oral cancer than smoking.
The second leading risk factor for oral cancer is alcohol use. Specifically, consuming 21 or more drinks per week will raise your odds of developing this disease.
Using tobacco and alcohol together can be a particularly dangerous combination. Alcohol causes dehydration of the mouth. This makes it more likely that the soft tissues of your mouth will absorb the chemicals found in tobacco products.
HPV (the human papillomavirus) still trails far behind tobacco and alcohol use as a cause, but it has been identified has become a better-known risk factor in recent years.
The Centers for Disease Control has noted that 8 in 10 people will contract HPV during their lives. Thankfully, it has little or no effects on 99 percent of people. For 1 in 100 people, unfortunately, HPV can lead to the development of oral and/or cervical cancer.
There are vaccines that can protect against HPV, but only if they are administered before someone is exposed to the virus. This is why health officials recommend that people are vaccinated around 11 or 12 years old. (Talk to your family doctor if you have questions about HPV vaccines.)
You can’t wipe out all risk of oral cancer, but you can be proactive about your health.
If you’ve never used tobacco, don’t start. If you are using tobacco, quit. (For help, call 1-866-NY-QUITS.) Limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption will help, too, and getting vaccinated for HPV could help your kids in the long-run.
And don’t forget to get oral cancer screenings by scheduling regular dental exams at the office of Dr. Jerry Farrell. Early detection can make a world of difference.