April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and oral cancer screenings are a routine part of dental examinations. During an exam, your dentist will carefully examine the inside of your mouth and tongue.

What starts out as a tiny, white or red spot or sore could be the sign of something more serious. Although most spots or sores are harmless, harmful ones often look identical.

Oral cancers that are found early offer a better chance for successful treatment—making oral cancer screenings one more reason to see your dentist regularly.

In 2010, the National Cancer Institute estimated that 36,540 people were diagnosed with oral cancer. NCI figures also projected that 7,880 people would die from oral cancer (though not necessarily the ones diagnosed in the same year). The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed early is 75 percent compared to a 20 percent survival rate in those whose cancer has spread, reports the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. How can you lower your risk for oral cancer?

As part of your daily oral hygiene routine, watch for changes in the soft tissues of your mouth especially sores that don’t heal within two weeks.

  • Avoid all tobacco products.
  • Avoid heavy alcohol use. (The combination of tobacco use and heavy alcohol use is estimated to cause the majority of oral cancers diagnosed in the United States.) Avoid exposure to the sun which can increase the risk of lip cancer.
  • Visit your dentist for regular oral cancer screenings that may save your life.

For more information, visit ADA.org.

© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.