Did you know that April is officially Oral Cancer Awareness Month? During this time It’s important to reflect on this disease and learn more about how common it is, how to spot it, and how to get screened for oral cancer. Thankfully, Meadowmont Dentistry is here to answer all these questions for you.

How common is oral cancer?

Oral cancer is frequently referred to as head and neck cancer. It can affect any age, gender, or ethnicity. There are many different types of oral cancer and, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, around 50,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. It can develop anywhere in the oral cavity such as the tongue, lips, inside of cheeks (buccal mucosa), gums (gingiva), or on the hard or soft palate. It may arise in the form of a nodule or cyst, a white lesion that cannot be wiped off (leukoplakia), a red lesion (erythroplakia), or pigmentation to name the majority. Many cysts and tumors that arise in the oral cavity are benign and can be confirmed by biopsy or X-rays, but some are malignant and have the potential to metastasize elsewhere in the body. Less than half of the people with malignant cases of oral cancer will survive five years, which is what makes awareness and early treatment so important.

What does it look like?

As mentioned above, oral cancer can appear as a white lesion that can’t be wiped off, often found on the lateral surfaces of the tongue. It can be a red sore-like lesion, found on the tongue, inside of the cheek, or on the palate. It can look like a nodule or cyst and be visible in the mouth, or around the roots of your teeth only visible by X-rays. It can also appear as a brown spot, such as malignant melanoma, which is more commonly found on the skin of the body than in the mouth, but must be addressed immediately. Most of these lesions may not have any symptoms of pain, but they should be evaluated as soon as they are noticed. A good rule of thumb is to have it looked at if it’s been present for longer than 7-10 days.

How do I get checked out?

Good news! If you receive regular care from most dental offices, including Meadowmont Dentistry, you’re already being screened at each visit. The hygienist and dentist that treat you are trained to check the lymph nodes of the head and neck as well as all contents of the oral cavity for suspicious lesions. Anything that’s not within normal limits will be brought to your attention and treatment options will be examined. If you’re unsure if your dental office is performing these screenings, just ask! If something new shows up in your mouth that you’re concerned about, don’t wait until your next appointment. Meadowmont Dentistry will be happy to have you come in between check-ups to have it looked at. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to your dentist, let Oral Cancer Awareness month serve as a reminder that it’s time to reevaluate your oral health. You can reserve your next appointment with Meadowmont Dentistry by calling or contacting us online. Don’t wait to request your appointment, stay ahead of oral cancer by seeing your dentist today.