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October is Dental Hygiene Awareness Month

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Avoiding Oral Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, more than one-third of women and nearly one-half of men in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. This group includes the over 39,000 Americans diagnosed with oral cancer each year. When detected in the early stages, oral cancer is one of the more treatable cancers.

Early diagnosis plays a major role in the treatment of oral cancer. If caught early, the five-year survival rate jumps to 80-90 percent. Oral cancer can affect any part of your mouth, including:

  • Gums;
  • Cheeks;
  • Tongue; and
  • Lips.

Though oral cancer can be difficult to detect in the early stages, symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Small red or white spots; and
  • Mouth sores that don’t heal.

People who use tobacco products or consume excessive amounts of alcohol tend to have a higher risk for oral cancer; however, 25% of oral cancer patients have no known risk factors.

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Most people visit their dentist more frequently than their physician. During a routine visit, dental professionals are able to detect many diseases early, including oral cancer. In addition to doing a thorough examination, your dentist can use a quick and painless diagnostic tool called a brush biopsy to test any unexplained red or white spots in your mouth. This tool can identify and analyze both precancerous and cancerous cells. Other types of biopsies may also be completed by the dentist, if needed.

Remember, both prevention and early detection are key components to keeping oral cancer at bay and maybe even saving a life. 

For more information on avoiding oral cancer, read here.

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