CDA reminds dentists and the public that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and encourages dental practices to spread the word about how to prevent oral cancer.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, each year in the United States, more than 21,000 men and 9,000 women are diagnosed with oral cancer. The two most common pathways by which people develop oral cancer are through tobacco and alcohol use and through exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV) — the same virus responsible for the majority of cervical cancers in women.

According to the FDA, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the U.S., responsible for more than 480,000 deaths each year. All forms of tobacco contain high concentrations of cancer-causing agents, and these substances subject users to increased cancer risk not only of the oral cavity, but also the pharynx, larynx and esophagus. Other traits of long-term tobacco users include stained teeth, halitosis, gum disease and a dulled sense of taste and smell.

Knowing the early signs can increase survival. Early signs include:

  • A sore that bleeds easily or does not heal;
  • A color change of the oral tissues;
  • A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area;
  • Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips;
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue; and
  • A change in the way the teeth fit together.

Dentists are reminded to share’s educational information with patients. Dentists also can print CDA’s oral cancer fact sheet and share it with their patients. The fact sheet is available in multiple languages.

Dentists can help their patients become tobacco free by using the online tobacco cessation information on U.S. Health and Human Services’ Be Tobacco Free website or Dentists also can refer their patients to 800.QUITNOW (800.784.8669) or 800.NOBUTTS (800.662.8887) for phone support and to set up a personalized plan to quit.

For additional information, visit the Oral Cancer Foundation’s website.