The old saying is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The next best thing is early detection. This is true for tooth decay and gum disease, but we believe this is true for a far more important disease — oral cancer.
At Beaumont Family Dentistry, we pride ourselves on a being a comprehensive dental practice. This means we go beyond routine cleanings and examinations to provide the kind of care we would want for our own families.
This is why oral cancer screenings are a regular part of what we do for patients who visit our dentist offices, whether they are from Lexington, Georgetown, Richmond, Winchester, or anywhere else in Kentucky.
Today, we want to take some time to discuss the connection between the HPV virus and oral cancer.
What Is HPV?
The Human papillomavirus is the single most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 200 strains of this virus exist.
Nine strains are proven to cause cancer, and at lease six more strains are believed to be cancer causing.
HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in the United States. Next to tobacco and alcohol use, HPV is one is the leading causes of oral cancer as well.
In fact, it is the leading cause of oral cancer among people who do not smoke or drink, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
HPV is spread primarily through sexual contact. The virus can remain in your body for years. For many people, HPV does not cause any problems, but for a certain segment of the population, it can and does lead to oral cancer.
The Symptoms Of Oral Cancer
The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that more than 48,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. On average, one person dies from oral cancer every hour in the United States.
Knowing this, we want you to be aware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer. They are:
• Lumps on your gums, lips, and other soft tissues in your mouth
• Patches of red, white, or a mix of both in your mouth
• Feelings of numbness in your face, mouth, or neck
• Oral bleeding that you can’t explain
• Sores on your face, mouth, or neck that do not heal within a couple weeks
• Feeling hoarse
• A lingering sore throat
• A change in your voice or difficulty speaking
• Trouble chewing and swallowing
• Problems moving your tongue or jaw
• Changes in your teeth or in how your dentures fit with one another
• Ear pains
• Sudden unexplained weight loss
If you or someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms, please seek medical help as soon as you can.
How We Can Help
As we mentioned, oral cancer screenings are part of what we do in our office. In addition to looking for the more noticeable physical signs of oral cancer, we also use a VELscope to examine your mouth.
The VELscope helps us identify possible oral cancer earlier than we could if we relied on our eyes alone. We use the VELscope to take a closer look at the insides of your cheeks.
This tool works by reflecting light on your oral mucosal tissue.
When we shine a blue light in your mouth, it reflects in different ways depending on the health of your tissues. Healthy tissues reflect back blue light while abnormal tissue can reflect back a greenish light.
This can indicate the early stages of oral cancer or other oral health problems.
Can HPV Be Prevented?
You may have seen news stories about Gardasil. This is a vaccine that can be used to prevent a few strains of HPV in people who have not already infected with the virus.
One of those strains is HPV16, which is known to cause oral cancer.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends routine vaccination of females 11 and 12 years old, females 13 to 26 who have not already be vaccinated, and males 9 to 26 years old.
Don’t Take Chances
Early detection of oral cancer is about more than your oral health. It’s about your life.
We want to see you and your family return to Beaumont Family Dentistry for a long time. This is why we use tools like the VELscope to detect the symptoms of oral cancer as early as we can at our dentist office in Lexington.
To schedule an oral cancer screening, contact the office closest to you or use our online form to make an appointment.