April is Oral Health Awareness Month

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and it’s an opportunity to highlight the importance of early detection, prevention, and education.

Early detection starts with a trip to your dentist. Dentists serve as the first line of defense in early detection of oral cancer as well as a host of other diseases.

Oral cancer includes cancers of the mouth and the back of the throat. Risk factors include tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure to the lips, and the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Symptoms may include sores that do not heal, unexplained numbness or pain, difficulty swallowing, and changes in the voice. Early detection significantly improves the prognosis, underscoring the importance of regular dental check-ups and self-examinations.

Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana is committed to supporting community outreach programs, educational initiatives, and research aimed at reducing the incidence of oral cancer.


Don’t delay

This month, Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana would like to invite you to make an appointment with your dentist.  The importance of regular dental check-ups can’t be overstated.

Dental professionals play a crucial role in the early detection of oral cancer, as they can identify potential signs of the disease during routine examinations. Delta Dental encourages its members to utilize their dental benefits for regular check-ups, which can be instrumental in catching oral cancer in its early stages.

Oral cancer is on the rise—and heavy drinkers and tobacco users aren’t the only ones at risk.


The link to HPV

New research indicates that an increasing number of young people are developing oral cancer related to human papillomavirus (HPV). Although oral cancer is most common in people over age 50, the fastest growing segment of newly diagnosed cases is nonsmoking young adults. Studies show that HPV may have surpassed smoking and alcohol use to become the primary cause of head and neck cancers in the U.S. No matter the cause, oral cancer can be deadly. If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, facial and oral disfigurement, and death.

  • 72 percent of all oral cancers are HPV related.1
  • Only 64 percent of those diagnosed will survive in the next five years.2
  • One person will die every hour from oral cancer.3
  • 52 percent of oral cancer survivors will not return to work due to severe facial disfiguration.4
  • 80 to 90 percent of oral cancer patients will survive if diagnosed early.5

In addition to regular dental checkups, you can perform self-exams at home. Start in one area and follow a pattern of observation while checking your face, neck, lips, cheek, mouth, tongue and gums. Contact your dentist immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Mouth sores that last longer than two weeks,
  • Swelling, growths or lumps anywhere in or near your mouth or neck,
  • White or red patches in your mouth or on your lips,
  • Repeated bleeding from the mouth or throat, or
  • Difficulty swallowing or persistent hoarseness.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “How Many Cancers Are Linked with HPV Each Year?” Web.
2 The National Cancer Institute, “SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Oral Cavity and Pharynx Cancer,” web.
3 The Oral Cancer Foundation, “Oral Cancer Facts,” web.
4 OrCA Foundation, “OrCA Foundation | Early Detection,” web.

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