April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that approximately 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with some form of oral cancer this year? The survival rate of oral cancer is only around 57% at five years.  This somewhat high death rate is not because the disease is hard to discover or diagnosis but due to the fact that often times it is not discovered until later stages.


Currently the United States does not have a comprehensive preventive screening program for this disease, which makes late stage discovery more common. However, your family Dentist can be the first line of defense for diagnosing oral cancer while it is still early which results in earlier treatment and a better prognosis.


There are certain behaviors that can increase your risk for oral cancer. These include:

·      Tobacco – Smoked or smokeless tobacco can increase your risk for oral cancer.

·      Alcohol – Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk for oral cancer.

·      Sun Exposure – Sun exposure without protective sunscreen to lips can increase your risk for oral cancer.

·      Diet – A diet without enough fruits and vegetables will also increase your risk for oral cancer.


The leading cause for oropharyngeal cancer is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).  While historically this cancer is seen in people over the age of 40, we are now seeing the frequency of occurrences more often in younger people and this has been directly tied to the HPV virus.


Prevention and early detection is the best way to fight this cancer. Possible symptoms include:


·       Difficulty chewing or swallowing, or difficulty moving your jaw or tongue

·       Numbness of the tongue or other areas in your mouth

·       Pain in only one ear, unaccompanied by hearing loss

·       A sore, lump or other irritation in your mouth, on your lip, or in your throat

·       A white or red spot in your mouth, especially on the mucosal membrane (inside cheek)


Addressing the above behaviors to diminish your risk is key. Getting the HPV vaccine to prevent the virus. Also good oral hygiene with regular brushing and flossing is a plus. But most importantly, see your dentist for regular cleanings and alert them to any of the above signs and symptoms immediately if they occur.


For more information and resources regarding Oral Cancer please visit these links:



Stop in to Oakdale Family Dentistry on Wednesday’s during the month of April for a FREE oral cancer screening! Dr. Terah Shelby is a top rated Brandon, MS dentist. With a highly skilled clinical staff and modern technology, Oakdale Family Dentistry is where your whole family can benefit from the best in dental care.