April 3, 2015 | Posted in General | By

National Oral Health & Cancer Month

What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer

April is Canada’s national Oral health and cancer month. It is a time to support oral health and educate ourselves on cancer risks and how to be proactive in keeping ourselves cancer free!

Risk Factors

Factors you can control.

Tobacco Use.

In all its forms, tobacco is a major contributor to the development of oral or mouth cancers. Not using tobacco is the single most important thing you can do to avoid oral cancers.

Excessive alcohol consumption.

More than 15 alcoholic beverages per week may put you at greater risk. If you do drink, do so in moderation.

The combined use of alcohol and tobacco.

This significantly increases the risk of oral cancer more than either by itself.

Excessive unprotected exposure to sun.

Unprotected exposure to sun will increase the likelihood of lip cancers. Use at least SPF 30 sunblock on your lips.

Low intake of fruits and vegetables.

A diet that does not contain the protective nutrients of these foods increases the risk of developing a variety of illnesses including oral cancer.

Use of betel nut and bedis.

When chewed or smoked, these are causative agents of mouth cancers. Avoid their use.

Risk Factors not in your control, or in which control is limited


Older individuals tend to develop more disease in general, including oral cancer as their immune system becomes less efficient.

HPV16 viral infection.

Increasing numbers of young, non-smoking individuals are being diagnosed with oral cancer. The causative factor is persistent HPV16 viral infection, the same virus responsible for more than 95% of all cervical cancer. While testing for the virus at the time of cervical examinations and PAP smears is becoming more common, individuals carrying this virus are not likely to know that they have it, as there are no outward symptoms. Currently there are not preventative or avoidance measures that will prevent sexual transmission of this virus. However, limiting the number of sexual partners decreases your risk of contracting the virus.

Race, ethnicity, and economics.

There are socio-economic factors that influence the development of cancers in different groups of people. For instance while not related to biology, different ethnic backgrounds have different levels of risk for oral cancer.  Please talk to the your dentist or visit the Oral Cancer Foundation website for more information. In addition, people who live in areas with poor access to healthcare, or for economic reasons do not routinely visit a dentist or doctor, are also at increased risk.


Previous head and neck cancer patients have a higher risk of a cancer recurrence which may occur in the mouth or other areas of the aero-digestive track.


Statistically males get oral cancer more often than females. Again, this is not related to biology but lifestyle issues.

Signs and Symptoms

In the early stages of oral cancer’s development, it often is painless, and the physical signs may not be obvious. This makes it a very dangerous disease. Regular screenings by a qualified medical or dental professional, combined with a person’s knowledge of the warning signs and symptoms, will allow its discovery in the earliest possible stages, when cure and survival are most likely. Even pre-cancerous tissue changes can be often detected by a trained professional.

Early indicators

1. Red and/or white discolorations of the soft tissues of the mouth.

2. Any sore which does not heal within 14 days.

3. Hoarseness which lasts for a prolonged period of time.

Advanced indicators

1. A sensation that something is stuck in your throat.

2. Numbness in the oral region.

3. Difficulty in moving the jaw or tongue.

4. Difficulty in swallowing.

5. Ear pain which occurs on one side only.

6. A sore under a denture, which even after the adjustment of the denture does not heal.

7. A lump or thickening which develops in the mouth or on the neck.

The good news:

It can often be found early in its development.

Today while you are at the dentists office, in just 3 to 5 minutes, you can receive a comprehensive oral cancer examination. This exam should include a visual and tactile exploration of the interior of your mouth, as well as the underside of your chin and neck. Some dentists including our dentists at Solara Dental Care will use a special light called a VELscope to aid in the discovery of tissues which are suspicious. If the dentist suspects that something is abnormal, it is standard procedure to refer you to a specialist for another opinion, and perhaps even take a small biopsy of the tissue in question. Referral for a second opinion should not alarm you, but assure you that the dentists wants to conclusively determine what any abnormality may be. Most abnormalities turn out to be benign conditions. This quick and inexpensive cancer examination will allow any serious condition to be caught at the earliest possible time, when treatments are the most effective. An oral cancer screening such as this is recommended to be conducted every year, and is easily incorporated into your routine visits for health check-ups, or cleanings and regular exams at the dental office. For those who engage in known risk factors such as the use of tobacco, more frequent oral cancer screening is recommended. The entire healthcare team at the office, including the nurse or dental hygienist, may be involved in portions of this examination. All are concerned with seeing that any area of suspicion is caught.

For more information on Oral Cancer please visit The Oral Cancer Foundation’s website.

If you have any questions about Oral Health and Cancer month, would like to know more about how we at Solara Dental Care can help with oral cancer screenings or would like to book an appointment to see us today  please call us at: 403-266-6868

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