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Toronto, ON. M6S 4W3

Oral Cancer Awareness Month: Why It’s Important

Oral Cancer Awareness Month: Why It’s Important

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Every year, thousands of Canadians are diagnosed with a form of oral cancer. If left untreated, oral cancer can spread throughout your mouth, throat, head, and neck.

Early detection of oral cancer is paramount. With prompt treatment, more than half of all oral cancer patients are alive five years after their diagnosis. Your dentist plays a vital role in the diagnosis and prevention of oral cancer.

Proper dental care, including regular visits to your dentist, can help reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. You should see your Toronto dentist at Bloor West Smiles Dental every six months. Contact us today to schedule your next appointment.

What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer refers to any cancer that affects the oral cavity, including the lips, tongue, teeth, gums, roof, floor of the mouth, and lining inside the lips and cheeks.

Several lifestyle risk factors increase your risk of developing oral cancer, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and unsafe sex.

Who is most likely to be impacted by oral cancer?

Oral cancer is most common in adults over the age of 45. The risk of developing oral cancer increases as you get older, making it rare in children and young adults. It’s also more common in men.

In 2020, more than 5000 Canadians were diagnosed with oral cancer with an estimated 1500 deaths (Canadian Cancer Statistics, 2020). Men made up the majority of diagnoses and deaths.

In addition to age and gender, there are a variety of other risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing oral cancer.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

  • Tobacco: Tobacco use is linked to the majority of oral cancer cases. All forms of tobacco increase your risk of oral cancer, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and vapes. The risk for oral cancer increases significantly if you’re also drinking alcohol.
  • Alcohol: The more you drink, the greater your risk. Heavy alcohol consumption combined with tobacco use dramatically increases your risk of developing oral cancer.
  • HPV: There is a strong connection between certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV-16 and HPV-18) and oral cancer. If you’ve had HPV, then you have an elevated risk of oral cancer.
  • Sun exposure: You have a greater chance of developing lip cancer if you spend long periods of time in the sun. Farmers and fair-skinned people tend to be the most affected.
  • Poor diet: Not eating enough vegetables and fruits also increases your risk of oral cancer. Many fruits and vegetables contain cancer-fighting properties.
  • Genetics: Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common type of oral cancer. If a close family member (parent, sibling, or child) has had SCC, then you’re at a greater risk. Other inherited genetic conditions, like Fanconi Anaemia or Dyskeratosis Congenita, also have a higher chance of developing oral cancer at an earlier age.
  • Weakened immune system: People with a weakened immune system have a higher risk of developing oral cancer, particularly lip cancer.
  • Poor oral health: Studies have shown that people who don’t take care of their mouths have a heightened risk of oral cancer. A healthy mouth requires a consistent hygiene routine and regular visits to your Toronto dentist.

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

There are many symptoms of oral cancer. Here are some of the most common signs that you should be familiar with:

  • A sore or lump on your lip or in your mouth that does not heal.
  • A white, red, or speckled patch on your gums, tongue, or lining of your mouth.
  • Unusual bleeding, pain, or numbness in the mouth.
  • A sore throat that does not go away.
  • A persistent feeling that something is caught in your throat.
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your tongue.
  • Pain or numbness in one ear.
  • Sustained hoarseness of your voice.
  • Dramatic weight loss.

How can I reduce my risk of developing oral cancer?

By making changes to your lifestyle, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. The most obvious example is to stop using all tobacco products immediately.

If you quit smoking or chewing tobacco, your overall health will improve, and your risk of oral cancer will drop dramatically. You can also cut back on alcohol, especially if you also use tobacco products.

Wearing sunscreen, including an SPF lip balm, can help reduce your risk. You should also get vaccinated for HPV if you can.

In addition to eating a well-balanced diet, maintaining a rigorous dental hygiene regime helps prevent oral cancer and other oral health issues. This involves brushing your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.

Of course, you also should stop by your Toronto dentist every six months for a professional cleaning, checkup, and oral cancer screening.

How is oral cancer diagnosed?

Your dentist checks for oral cancer during one of your regular checkups. They inspect your oral cavity for signs of cancer and feel for any lumps.

Additionally, they examine your head, face, and neck for other potential signs. If something looks suspicious, they perform a biopsy.

How important is early detection of oral cancer?

Early detection is extremely important for the successful treatment of oral cancer. The earlier the cancer is found, the easier it is to fight. This is one reason why it is so critical that you visit Bloor West Smiles Dental regularly for a professional checkup and examination.

It only takes a few minutes to perform an oral cancer screening, but it can have a dramatic impact on your life.

When was your last appointment at Bloor West Smiles Dental? If it’s been more than six months, then you’re overdue. Call us today to book a checkup with one of our great Toronto dentists.

Can I check for oral cancer at home?

Yes! You can do an at-home self-examination to check for signs of oral cancer. We recommend doing this every month. If you spot any changes or something unusual, then contact Bloor West Smiles Dental immediately.

To check for oral cancer, you should feel your lips, gums, roof of your mouth, neck, and lower jaw for lumps or swellings. Then, use a bright mirror to look inside your mouth, tilting your head back so you can see the roof of your mouth.

Pull your cheeks out to view the inside of your mouth, including your back gums. Then, take a closer look at your tongue.

Visit Your Toronto Dentist for an Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer screenings are a vital part of detecting oral cancer early. Although you should also be examining your mouth at home on a monthly basis, you also need to be visiting your Toronto dentist every six months.

Every time you visit Bloor West Smiles Dental for your regular checkup and professional cleaning, we perform an oral cancer screening and check for other developing conditions.

To learn more about our dental care services in Toronto, call Bloor West Smiles Dental at 647-371-1407 or contact us here.

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