Oral cancer rates are significantly increasing. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Unfortunately, this type of cancer has historically high death rates because the cancer is routinely discovered late in its development. Fortunately, it has been found that early detection has lead to successful treatment. Therefore, many dentists have build oral cancer screenings into a routine six month visit.

Oral cancer includes cancers of the mouth and pharynx. Typically people who are at risk for this type of cancer are those who smoke cigarettes, use chewing tobacco, and drink alcohol. In fact, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, “using tobacco plus alcohol poses a much greater risk than using either substance alone.” Other risk factors include exposure to the sexually transmitted virus HPV16, age, sun exposure, and diet.

When you go for your routine dental checkup, your dentist or hygienist will most likely conduct a painless exam. During the exam, your dentist or hygienist will check your face, neck, lips, and entire mouth for possible signs of cancer. Because dental visits are recommended to occur twice a year, these are opportune times to have this exam and have your questions answered about this type of cancer.

However, there are eight symptoms that everyone should know. It should be warned that if you suspect you have a problem, please schedule an appointment with your dentist or doctor immediately. These symptoms include:

1.) A sore, irritation, lump, or think patch in your mouth, lip, or throat
2.) A white or red patch in your mouth
3.) A feeling that something is caught in your throat
4.) Difficulty chewing or swallowing
5.) Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue
6.) Numbness in your tongue or other areas in your mouth
7.) Swelling in your jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
8.) Pain in one ear without the loss of hearing

One of the real dangers of oral cancer is that in its early stages it can often go unnoticed. In fact, as these growths and cells develop, you may not experience any pain or symptoms. Therefore, it is extremely important that you have routine checkups with your dentist or doctor who are trained to spot these abnormalities in their earliest stages. Like mentioned before, when caught early, oral cancer is extremely treatable. Don’t neglect your routine dental visits because you just never know if you may have a serious problem that may treatable if diagnosed in the beginning stages.