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Oral Cancer

Early detection is key to beating oral or mouth cancer.

Oral cancer or mouth cancer is not a topic to take lightly.

Between two and four percent of all cancers diagnosed annually in the United States are oral cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has also found that 75 percent of mouth cancers can be attributed to tobacco smoking, particularly when combined with heavy alcohol consumption (that is, 30 or more drinks per week). Ninety percent of cases, the CDC continues, occur among people 40 and older with an average age at diagnosis of 60.

Fortunately, however, the American Dental Association (ADA) says it's now easier than ever to detect mouth cancer, and with early detection, survival rates are greatly enhanced.

According to CompBenefits' Stan Shapiro, D.D.S., an oral cancer screening should be a part of any routine dental exam.

In about 10 percent of patients, the ADA says, dentists may notice flat and painless white or red spots. Although most of these are harmless, some are not. The dentist may choose to treat the mouth sore and ask the patient to return for follow up, or he or she may perform a brush biopsy, which is usually painless, to determine if dangerous cells are present.

In looking for mouth cancer, dentists check for mouth sores that bleed or do not heal, color changes of oral tissues, lumps, pain and tenderness, or changes in the way teeth fit together.

To aid your dentist in early detection of mouth cancer, examine your mouthfor:
  • Color changes in tissues

  • Lumps, thickenings, rough spots, or small eroded areas

  • Mouth sores that bleed easily and do not heal

  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips

  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue

  • Changes in the voice

  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together
If you have been postponing a trip to the dentist because of cost concerns, you may want to consider purchasing dental benefits. You may find savings through the use of dental insurance or a discount dental plan. A discount plan is not insurance. With a discount plan you gain access to a network of dentists who have agreed to give plan participants a reduced fee for their services. It's a good idea to look at the type of dental procedures you think you will need and see if the plan can provide you with savings.


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