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A Visit To The Dentist Could Save Your Life

Cases of oral cancer increased 52 percent in Illinois in the last three decades,and oral cancer remains one of the top 10 types of cancer among men.2,3    

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month – a time to focus on how to prevent cancer that can develop in the mouth and back of the throat. Delta Dental of Illinois encourages regular dental visits to help detect symptoms early.

Tobacco, alcohol, sun exposure and the human papillomavirus (HPV) are the largest risk factors for oral cancer. Tobacco users are 10 times more likely to develop cancer of the head or neck than those who do not use tobacco.4 Those who use smokeless tobacco are almost 50 times more likely to develop cancer of the cheek and gum.5  

“Oral cancer is often considered a lifestyle disease because you can reduce your risk by abstaining from tobacco, avoiding heavy alcohol consumption, applying lip balm with SPF and visiting the dentist regularly,” said Dr. Sheila Strock, vice president, dental services and science officer at Delta Dental of Illinois. 

It’s estimated that HPV causes 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancers, or cancers affecting the back of the mouth and throat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.6,7 

“Being exposed to HPV is also a risk factor for oral cancer,” Strock said. “Since HPV can often go undetected, visiting your dentist regularly is essential for the early detection of oral cancer, which is most treatable in its early stages.”

During a routine dental checkup, your dentist will perform an oral cancer screening and look for any symptoms that may cause concern. Symptoms include irritation, soreness or swelling in the jaw or throat; red or white patches in the mouth; and difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking. A dental visit should also be scheduled if any of these symptoms arise and last for more than two weeks.

Going to the dentist should be a part of your oral health regimen in addition to brushing twice and flossing once daily. Regular dental visits not only help you maintain a healthy smile, they can lead to early detection of oral cancer and save your life. Learn more at

Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Cancer Registry,, page I-8
2 Cancer in Illinois 2014, Illinois Department of Public Health,, page 5
3, page 10
4 Tobacco-Related Cancer in Illinois, Illinois Department of Public Health,, page 6
5 Tobacco-Related Cancer in Illinois, Illinois Department of Public Health,, page 6