Periodontist in Houston

April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Preventing Oral Cancer Through Education and Early Detection

The month of April is dedicated to raising awareness about oral cancer, and at Bellaire Periodontics, we are dedicated to preventing, diagnosing, and treating periodontal disease, which can help mitigate the risk of oral cancer. An increasing number of studies demonstrates that the presence of periodontal disease leads to a higher risk of oral cancer. Interestingly, this risk is present both for patients who smoke and consume alcohol and those who do not.

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Periodontitis is not the only risk factor associated with oral cancer – it is also associated with HPV, ultraviolet light, older population, poor nutrition, genetic syndromes like Fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita, and lichen planus. Furthermore, the disease is creating close to 9,750 deaths in the U.S., which is roughly one person per hour every day, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation. Clearly, oral cancer is a major problem, and learning about it this month could mean more than just raising awareness – it could save a life.

That is why every April, The Oral Cancer Foundation makes a statement to educate the public about oral and oropharyngeal cancers. The goal is to remind the public that when these cancers are detected and treated early, mortality rates and treatment-related health problems are greatly reduced.

What is the Oral Cancer Survival Rate?

The survival rates for oral cancer can vary due to the severity of the disease and the original location. It is important to be diligent about oral health because the earlier the stage of diagnosis, the higher the chance of survival after treatment. Race and gender are also factors that can affect the survival rate. The five-year overall survival rate for individuals with stage 1 or stage 2 oral cancer is typically between 70-90%, but early treatment is crucial. Early detection can also mean less aggressive treatment, which improves the 5-year survival rate and quality of life for the affected patient.

What Do the Early Stages of Mouth Cancer Look Like?

In order to understand how oral cancer can be detected, it is important to understand how it forms. Mouth cancers form when cells on the lips or in the mouth mutate in their DNA. These mutations instruct the cells to continue growing and dividing. Over time, these abnormal mouth cancer cells can form a tumor, but the early stages are often not so obvious. For one, oral cancer can present itself in a range of places, from the lips to the salivary glands, gums, cheeks, tongue, hard palate, and soft palate. The signs and symptoms can change depending on the area in the mouth where the cancer forms. In addition to being diligent about oral health and periodontal care, you’ll want to look out for these signs if you want to prevent the formation and growth of oral cancer:

  • Persistent sore on lip or mouth

  • White or reddish patch on the inside of the mouth

  • Growth or formation inside of the mouth

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Loose teeth

  • Ear pain

  • Mouth pain

Connection Between Periodontal Disease and Oral Cancer

If you are interested in learning how to better care for your oral health, the gums would be a great place to start. If your gums become infected and develop periodontal disease, not only does your risk of developing oral cancer increase, but you can experience tooth loss and jaw damage. Periodontitis, when left untreated, is actually a leading cause of tooth loss in adults in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. That is why regular periodontal care is an important part of a healthy oral care routine. When you maintain your gum health with the help of a skilled periodontist like Dr. Sharon Minott-Warren at Bellaire Periodontics, you will protect your overall health in the following ways:

  • Obtaining a more beautiful smile

  • Creating fresher breath

  • Improving cardiovascular health

  • Achieving a more comfortable smile

  • Removing tartar

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The health of your gums is intrinsically tied to your health overall. If you have been going to the dentist throughout your life, then you have likely been told about the importance of gum health, and you were told correctly. Maintaining healthy gums is one of the best measures of self-care you can take for yourself. Not only does it give you a healthier, more beautiful smile, but it can even reduce the risk of devastating conditions like oral cancer and keep that smile shining for many years to come.

If you are ready to be proactive about your gum health in commemoration of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, call Bellaire Periodontics at (713) 636-9734 or contact us online to find out how our advanced periodontal services can help.