Did you know that about 36,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with oral cancer every year? An average of 61 percent will survive for more than five years, but the number of deaths could be reduced significantly with early detection and prompt treatment. So, it’s important to know how to recognize the signs of oral cancer as early as possible.
Signs of Oral Cancer
The most common symptom of oral cancer is a sore inside your mouth that doesn’t heal, with persistent mouth pain being another very common sign. Other symptoms may include white or red patches on the oral tissues, a lingering sore throat or numbness or swelling of the oral tissues. Loose teeth, toothaches and chronic bad breath can also indicate oral cancer. Since these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, not just oral cancer, it’s important to see a dentist so that the root cause of the symptoms can be properly determined.
Detecting Oral Cancer
Regular self examinations can help you detect the signs of oral cancer. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons recommends doing self exams once a month. With the help of a mirror and a bright light, examine your oral tissues. Look at all the surfaces inside your mouth, including hard-to-see areas like the roof of the mouth and the base of your tongue. In addition to this visual inspection, feel these areas to see if there are any lumps or bumps. If you notice anything suspicious, tell your dentist immediately.
Oral Cancer Screenings
While self exams can help you discover the signs of oral cancer early, they’re not a substitute for professional screenings. Your dentist can screen you for oral cancer during your regular dental checkup. This screening will only take a few minutes, and it doesn’t hurt.
During the screening, you can expect your dentist to look at the tissues inside your mouth. They’ll also press against your tissues with gloved hands to feel for unusual bumps or lumps. If they find any suspicious tissues, a biopsy procedure can be used to check for the presence of cancer cells.
Providing dental insurance to your employees is an essential part of encouraging them to get screened for oral cancer. When people don’t have dental insurance, they’re 2.5 times more likely to not see their dentist, and this means they miss out on oral cancer screenings that could help to diagnose cancer at an early, more treatable stage.
Offering dental insurance isn’t just good for your employees’ health; it’s good for your business as well. A whopping 81 percent of health plans don’t include dental services, so offering a dental plan can help to increase employee loyalty and retention. In fact, when employees who are very satisfied with their benefits package are compared to those who are very dissatisfied, the former group are three times more likely to say they’re happy with their current job.
To encourage your employees to use their dental benefits, use newsletters to share important information about oral cancer and screenings for the condition. To make it easier for them to see their dentist, offer paid time off for dental visits. Make sure employees know that they won’t be punished for taking the time to go to the dentist.
Oral cancer is a serious disease, so it’s important to pay attention to changes inside your mouth and see your dentist regularly for screenings.