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Understanding Your Risk of Oral Cancer

dental hygiene towson mdOver 50,000 people a year are diagnosed with oral cancer, so it is vital to remain vigilant in the fight to prevent it. Oral Cancer Awareness Month is recognized every April, but you shouldn’t only be thinking about this deadly disease once a year. Learn the facts about oral cancer with the dental office of Dr. Kevin Welinsky in Towson, MD  where we are dedicated to helping patients maintain their healthy, beautiful smiles.

What Causes Oral Cancer?

Any cancer occurring in the mouth, throat, tongue, lips, or tonsils is deemed to be oral cancer. This occurrence of this disease has been steadily on the rise in the United States and is responsible for over 330,000 deaths worldwide every year.

You’re probably already familiar with tobacco use as one of the primary causes of oral cancer and this continues to be true. Chewing tobacco, smoking, and the use of other tobacco products have long been associated with oral cancer, as well as other types of cancer, such as lung cancer. However, you may be shocked to learn that HPV-16 (human papillomavirus), the same virus responsible for cervical cancer in women, is also a cause of oral cancer in both men and women.

Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms: When to See A Dentist

Dentists are passionate about educating their patients on the signs and symptoms of oral cancer, and not just their patients who smoke. Many patients are at risk for this disease and need to be aware of potential warning signs, which include:

  • Sores in the mouth that do not heal after 2 weeks
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Eroded areas on the lips or inside the mouth
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw
  • Swelling, bumps, rough spots, or patches inside the mouth or on the lips

Early detection and treatment are crucial to successfully overcoming many diseases, including oral cancer. When detected early, survival rates are much higher and the disease can often be managed with minimally-invasive treatments.

Discuss the HPV vaccine with your medical provider to protect yourself against HPV-16 infection, which is linked to oral cancer. Inform your dentist if you suspect you have been exposed to HPV so they can examine your mouth, throat, and neck for signs of HPV-16.

Preventing Oral Health Problems By Screening Early and Often

Every dental check-up with Dr. Welinsky includes a screening for oral cancer. Our team examines the mouth, throat, and neck for signs of oral cancer, and we also compile patient history to determine any risk factors. An oral cancer screening is quick and painless, so be sure to stay current with your 6-month check-ups and talk to Dr. Welinsky or your area dentist if you find any symptoms. Schedule your appointment online with Welinsky Dental Care today or call our office at (410) 692-8453.