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The Massachusetts Dental Society Encourages Regular Dental Visits for Early Detection of Oral Cancers

April Marks Oral Cancer Awareness Month

SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass.—March 29, 2019—April marks Oral Cancer Awareness Month, which is dedicated to raising awareness of oral and oropharyngeal cancers—commonly referred to as mouth, tongue, tonsil, or throat cancer—and the need for early detection in order to save lives.

“When it comes to oral cancer, early detection is key,” said Massachusetts Dental Society President Dr. Howard Zolot. “Regular dental checkups that include an examination of the entire head and neck can be vital in detecting cancer early. It’s important to talk to your dentist if you’ve had any changes in your medical history or if you’ve been having any new or unusual symptoms.”

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 53,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2019, and it will cause more than 9,750 deaths. On average, 57 percent of those diagnosed with the disease will survive more than five years. When found in early stages, oral cancers can have an 80 to 90 percent survival rate. However, the majority are found as late stage cancers.

As part of an oral cancer screening, your dentist will check your oral cavity—including your lips, cheek lining, gums, the front part of your tongue, the floor of your mouth, and the roof of your mouth. He or she also will examine your throat at the soft part at the roof of your mouth, including your tonsils, the back section of your tongue, and where your tongue attaches to the bottom of your mouth. The dentist will then feel your jaw and neck for any lumps or abnormalities.

In addition to prioritizing regular dental visits, the Massachusetts Dental Society encourages all adults to be aware of the risk factors and the symptoms of oral cancer. 

Top risk factors include smoking and chewing tobacco, heavy alcohol consumption, and the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted and associated with throat cancers. Men are two times more likely to get oral cancers than women.

Symptoms of oral cancer include:
  • A sore or irritation that doesn't go away
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness in the mouth or lips
  • A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust, or small eroded area
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your tongue or jaw
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
  • A sore throat, feeling like something is caught in your throat, hoarseness, or a change in voice
“If you have any of these symptoms, let your dentist know, especially if you’ve had them for two weeks or more,” said Dr. Zolot.

About the Massachusetts Dental Society

The Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS), a professional association representing 5,000+ member dentists and a statewide constituent of the American Dental Association, is dedicated to the professional development of its member dentists through initiatives in education, advocacy, the promotion of the highest professional standards, and championing oral health in the Commonwealth. For more information, visit, and follow the MDS on Twitter @MassDental.