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Each year, in the United States, about 40,000 new cases of mouth and throat cancer are diagnosed. However, many people are unaware of the need for cancer screening and regular dental exams.

Cancer can affect any part of the mouth, including the lip or tongue. The incidence of oral cancer increases with age. Using tobacco and alcohol together, as well as poor oral hygiene, also increase your risk.

Other factors may increase the risk for cancer as well. Current research shows that some types of human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause throat cancer, which affects the base of the tongue and tonsils. HPV is very common—many people have the virus in their bodies and don’t even know it. People who often spend long periods of time in the sun are at higher risk for lip cancer. A diet with too few fruits and vegetables may also increase the risk for cancer.

Symptoms of oral cancer include:

• A sore or irritation that does not go away
• Red or white patches
• Pain, tenderness, or numbness in the mouth or on the lips
• A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
• Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

Signs of throat cancer include:

• A lump or growth in the throat or neck area
• A cough or sore throat that doesn’t go away
• Earache
• Trouble swallowing
• Hoarseness or other changes in your voice

Periodic oral examinations are important to maintain good health. During a dental checkup, we will do a detailed oral examination to detect cancer at an early stage when it is easier to treat. Please call us or visit our website to schedule an appointment. We want to help you recognize your risk factors and maintain your oral health for a long, happy life.