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Oral Cancer: Know Your Risks

Compared to some of the more well-known and widely discussed cancers oral cancer is deadly. At the five year mark only about 50 percent of patients will have survived, and much of that risk is due simply to the fact that we don’t talk much about it.

At Creating Smiles we take oral cancer seriously. We don’t want any of our patients to end up falling prey to this horrible, and often preventable, disease. April marks oral cancer awareness month, and we want to take the time to help you understand the risks and signs so you can prevent the worst from happening.

How Oral Cancer Shows Itself

Most forms of cancer are easily recognized. Breast cancer involves lumps, skin cancer can appear flaky and uneven, and plenty other cancers show similar signs. While similar symptoms can appear in your mouth they often go unnoticed, or even appear late in the disease’s progression.

Oral cancer screening is essential because of how hard it is to pick up on the signs. We perform an oral cancer screening at every regularly scheduled checkup appointment at our St John and Valparaiso offices.

We thoroughly check for all the visible signs of oral cancer, but we can only do so twice a year. It’s important for you to know the signs so that you can perform regular self check too. We recommend checking your mouth for symptoms once a month.

Keep an eye out for:

  • White, red, or speckled patches
  • Raised, uneven, or bumpy patches
  • Velvety patches, often white in color
  • Ulcerous spots
  • Sores that bleed easily and last more than two weeks
  • Crusty sores
  • Unidentified bleeding in the mouth
  • Sores on the lips, neck, or face

These physical symptoms can be hard to spot, so you might want to have a dental mirror and a small flashlight handy to provide more light and visibility.

There’s also some non-physical symptoms you need to watch out for as well. These are the kinds of things that only you are going to notice, and picking up on these signs can be the difference between diagnosis and going untreated.

  • Trouble swallowing
  • The feeling that something is caught in your throat
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Difficulty moving your tongue
  • Numbness in your mouth, face, or neck
  • Pain in your ear that doesn’t include hearing loss
  • Hoarseness in the throat
  • Trouble speaking

These signs, when paired with physical symptoms, are serious. Be sure to schedule an appointment right away! 

Who Gets Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is, thankfully, one of the more easily preventable cancers. Many of the patients who suffer from this condition do so because of a certain lifestyle choice or habit, and in many cases early intervention paired with a lifestyle change can alter the course of the disease.

People at risk for oral cancer include:

Tobacco smokers. Smoking increases your risk by roughly six times.
Smokeless tobacco users. The risk increase for these products is around 50 times!
Heavy drinkers. Excessive alcohol use accounts for about 70 percent of oral cancer cases.
Sunbathers. Anyone who spends too much time in the sun is at an increased risk.
Those with a bad diet, especially ones light in fruits and vegetables.
Carriers of the human papillomavirus, specifically HPV-16.
Those with a family history of cancer.
If you fit any of these risk categories it’s important to identify how you’re at risk and correct any behaviors that could contribute as soon as possible.

Regular Care Is Essential To Detection

Patients who regularly see the dentist are much more likely to have their oral cancer detected while it’s still in an early stage. When treated early the survival rate jumps to nearly 90 percent, so don’t take chances with ignoring symptoms or risk factors!

We want to ensure you have a happy, healthy smile that lasts a lifetime and we can only do that with regular twice annual exams and cleanings. Seeing us at either our St. John or Valparaiso office twice a year can be the difference between cavities and healthy teeth, gum disease and healthy gums, or oral cancer detection and death.

Let us take care of all your oral health needs at Creating Smiles. We want to be your destination for great oral – and bodily – health! Schedule an appointment today by calling 219-322-9920 to reach our St. John location, or 219-462-1970 to reach our Valparaiso office. You can also request an appointment online for either location. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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About Us

Creating Smiles, PC, located in St. John and Valparaiso, Indiana, offers everything you need for a healthy smile and a healthier life. Dr. Kapers and his team can take the anxiety and uncertainty out of dental visits with sedation dentistry, and we're the premier provider of dental implants in the region.