You are young. You drink in moderation. You don’t smoke or chew tobacco. So there’s no need to worry about oral cancer, right? Think again! That’s why throughout the month of April, Blodgett Dental Care will be taking part in Oral Cancer Awareness month.
We want to raise awareness and clear up the confusion about oral cancer, a condition that can truly affect ANYONE.
Did you know there are over 45,000 new cases of oral cancers diagnosed each year? And it’s not just smokers or heavy drinkers. Healthy people of all ages may find themselves fighting oral cancer. The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself and reduce your risk.
Today we’ll talk about how Dr. Blodgett uses the latest dental technology to aid in the early detection of oral cancers as well as help you understand the risk factors and causes of oral cancer.
Dr. Blodgett’s tips to minimize your oral cancer risk
- Avoid ALL tobacco products
- Enjoy alcohol safely and in moderation
- Practice safe sex and consider a vaccination against HPV
- Don’t ignore warning signs
- Eat a “rainbow” diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and antioxidant-rich foods
- Ask your dentist for a non-invasive VELscope cancer screening exam!
Causes & risk factors
Oral cancers may be found on the gums, tongue, or any of the soft tissue in the mouth and upper throat. For decades, these cancers were believed to be mostly caused by smoking or chewing tobacco products.
Today we know better. Besides heavy drinking and the use of tobacco products, there are now many known factors that can increase the risk of oral cancers.
Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
A healthy balanced diet rich in the nutrients found in plant-based foods is essential for whole body health. Aim for at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies every day!
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Nearly 80 million people, mostly teenagers and young adults, have HPV and most don’t even know it. There are often no symptoms and the long-term health effects, like oral cancers, can take years or decades to develop.
You can minimize your HPV risk by:
- Vaccinating teens (both boys and girls)
- Practicing safe sex in a monogamous relationship
- Getting screened for cervical cancer
As you get older, your oral cancer risk increases. You must become more vigilant, watching for symptoms and getting checked regularly. When you’re in control of your health, your golden years will be so much more enjoyable.
Symptoms of oral cancer
In the earliest stages, oral cancer symptoms may be subtle or nonexistent. They’re also easily confused with symptoms of other, more minor, health issues.
Watch out for symptoms like:
- Lumps or bumps
- White or red patches
- Persistent sore throat or bad breath
- Trouble or pain when swallowing or chewing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Numb areas in the tongue or mouth
Trust your instincts! If something doesn’t feel right, check with a dentist or doctor you trust right away.
Early detection of oral cancer is key
The earlier oral cancer is found, the better. Early detection leads to more treatment options and improved outcomes.
But, you might be thinking, “didn’t you say that sometimes the early stages of oral cancer don’t produce any symptoms at all?”
That’s exactly right.
So how do you detect something you can’t see, feel, or notice?
That’s where a great dentist comes in. At Blodgett Dental Care, we offer an oral cancer screening using a high-tech, non-invasive tool known as the VELscope.
What is the VELscope?
The VELscope is the BEST way to detect oral cancer in its very earliest stages. The VELscope can spot oral cancers before ANY physical symptoms become apparent.
The VELscope shines a safe blue light on the mucosal tissue in your mouth. By utilizing special optical filters and viewing how tissue reacts to the VELscope light, it’s easy for Dr. Blodgett to differentiate between healthy and abnormal oral tissue, including oral cancer.
The VELscope can even help identify precancerous tissues.
Best of all? It takes just seconds and you won’t feel a thing.
Why VELscope? Traditional oral cancer screenings aren’t perfect.
For years, dentists and doctors performed oral cancer screenings by visually inspecting (looking at) the tissue in your mouth and feeling the tongue and gums for lumps or other signs of oral cancer.
These exams had their drawbacks and aren’t as effective as the VELscope. Plus physical exams take longer and just aren’t as comfortable as the completely non-invasive VELscope.
Try VELscope at Blodgett Dental Care
We are highly experienced at using the VELscope. As a matter of fact, in 2006, we became Portland’s first dental office to offer VELscope screenings! At Blodgett Dental Care, our holistic approach to whole-body wellness goes beyond cavities and tooth decay. That’s why we make a VELscope oral cancer screening one of the many offerings to our guests.
It’s fast, easy, and you won’t feel a thing. Best of all, it might help save your life!
Learn more about the patient experience at our Portland dentist office.