Over 50% of Illinoisans believe they’ve never been screened for oral cancer

Delta Dental of Illinois educates on prevention and early detection of oral cancer.  

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (March 29, 2022) – In recognition of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, Delta Dental of Illinois is emphasizing the importance of a healthy lifestyle, regular dental visits and monthly self-exams for prevention and early detection.  

New data from the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that Illinoisans don’t believe they’ve been checked for signs of oral cancer even though they may have been during their regular dental checkups. More than half (52%) said they had never gotten an exam for oral cancer. However, 68% visited their dentist within the past year. 

“During preventive dental care visits, dentists do check for signs of oral cancer as part of their routine exams. If your dentist finds anything suspicious, such as white or red spots, lumps or bumps, or if you have increased risk of oral cancer, your dentist may do some additional tests,” said Dr. Sheila Strock, vice president, dental services and science officer at Delta Dental of Illinois. “The key is early detection and treatment for a positive outcome, which is why it’s so important to maintain regular dental checkups.”

Recognizing the signs and symptoms

The most effective way to detect oral cancer early is through consistent self-exams and regular dental visits. Dentists can detect signs of both oral cancer and other serious health conditions that have symptoms appearing in the mouth. Warning signs of oral cancer include, but are not limited to:

  • A sore on the lip or in the mouth that doesn’t heal within a couple weeks
  • Pain or numbness in the mouth that doesn’t go away
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil or lining of the mouth
  • A growth or lump within the mouth

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2022 an estimated 2,100 Illinoisans will be diagnosed with new cases of mouth and throat cancer.2 Individuals who are at high risk include those who:

  • Have a family history of oral cancer
  • Use tobacco of any kind including vaping
  • Heavily consume alcohol
  • Have or have had an HPV infection
  • Were previously diagnosed with oral cancer
  • Have a history of significant sun exposure

Men are also more at risk for oral cancer than women, and those over the age of 40 are at an increased risk.

Along with early detection, prevention is also key. Reduce your risk of oral cancer by:

  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet full of fruits and veggies
  • Avoiding smoking marijuana and all forms of tobacco
  • Getting an HPV vaccine
  • Applying lip balm with at least SPF 30+ often
  • Visiting your dentist regularly for checkups

For additional tips on protecting your oral health, visit deltadentalil.com/oral-health.

About the Delta Dental of Illinois

Delta Dental is the national dental benefits leader covering 1 in 3 Americans who have dental coverage. Delta Dental of Illinois is one of 39 member companies that make up the national Delta Dental system. Based in Naperville, Illinois, Delta Dental of Illinois provides dental benefit programs to more than 6,500 Illinois companies and covers more than 2 million individuals, employees and family members nationwide. Delta Dental of Illinois is committed to improving oral health in our community and furthers this commitment through the work of Delta Dental of Illinois Foundation. 


1 Illinois Department of Health, http://www.idph.state.il.us/brfss/statedata.asp?selTopic=ORAL&area=il&yr=2018&form=strata&show=freq

2 American Cancer Society, https://cancerstatisticscenter.cancer.org/?_ga=2.149632434.565310645.1647623577-701167350.1647443477#!/state/Illinois