CHICAGO, March 31, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, more than 43,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed this year, and oral cancer is expected to cause more than 8,000 deaths—about one death per hour.
In observance of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) recommends that patients visit their dentists every six months for a dental exam. Dental exams not only help to decrease a patient's risk of oral diseases, such as cavities and gum disease, but they also may help to diagnose potentially life-threatening medical conditions, such as oral cancer.
"Checking for oral cancer is quick and painless," says AGD Spokesperson Vincent Mayher, DMD, MAGD. "Your dentist will feel for lumps or irregular tissue changes in the neck, throat, cheeks, and mouth, and look for any sores or discoloration."
Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because it can go unnoticed by patients in its preliminary stages. In many cases, however, dentists can identify its early signs and symptoms.
"General dentists are the first line of defense against oral cancer, and early detection is key to increasing survival rates," he says. "If it is not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can be deadly."
Scientists are not sure of the exact cause of oral cancer. However, risk factors include tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, age, gender (oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women), and race (oral cancer occurs twice as frequently in African Americans than Caucasians). Research also has uncovered a connection between the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., and oral cancer.
"In addition to brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily, scheduling two visits with your general dentist each year helps to ensure that any concerns are caught early on," says Dr. Mayher.
To bring further attention to this topic, the AGD Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the AGD, will host free oral cancer screenings with oral health education for the general public at AGD 2015, the AGD's annual meeting, in San Francisco. In addition, the AGD Foundation aims to provide AGD's 39,000 members with free or low-cost continuing education on the latest oral cancer-identification techniques, and a webinar series on how to better screen during routine dental exams. The AGD Foundation is proud to be an intellectual partner of the Global Oral Cancer Forum—an international assembly of passionate professionals focused on building awareness gaps on innovation, prevention, patient care, technology, and services.