KANATA AND OTTAWA, ONTARIO – There are many different types of cancer, and the Canadian Cancer Society reports 29 percent of all Canadian deaths in 2009 were due to cancer.

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and in an effort to raise awareness about this disease our Ottawa family dentistry team encourages you to pay attention to any changes in your mouth, gums, lips and cheeks.

Our team provides general, restorative and cosmetic dentistry in Kanata. We can help restore missing teeth with dental implants, we thoroughly clean your teeth and gums at every regular appointment and we carefully screen each patient for oral cancer.

According to the Canadian Dental Association, in 2003 about 3,100 Canadians were diagnosed with oral cancer and the disease claimed 1,090 Canadian lives. The five-year survival rate for oral cancer is 63 percent, according to Health Canada. This means that 63 percent of patients diagnosed with oral cancer are still alive five years after their diagnosis. We don’t want you to be next. You are an important part of your oral health, and keeping a close watch over your lips, gums, teeth, cheeks and tongue may even save your life.

Learn the Most Common Oral Cancer Symptoms

If you know the common symptoms of oral cancer you can better protect yourself. When you go through your daily oral hygiene routine, check for the following warning signs: Use your finger to trace your lips, gums and cheeks to check for any swelled lumps. Sores are often signs that something is wrong in your mouth, especially those that last longer than two weeks. Note the color of the sores as well; are they white, red or a combination of the two colors?

You may also notice ear pain, numbness, tenderness in your face or mouth, frequent oral bleeding, a prolonged sore throat, trouble chewing or swallowing food, changes in the way foods taste, trouble talking or moving your jaw or even extreme weight loss. Has your bite changed? Do you notice a difference in the way your teeth fit together? All of these symptoms could be warning signs of oral cancer. Bring any of these symptoms up to your dentist at your next appointment.

Identify Your Oral Cancer Risk Factors

Tobacco use greatly increases your risk of developing oral cancer. If you smoke or use smokeless tobacco, consider how much healthier you’ll be if you quit. Quitting tobacco will improve your dental health, your skin, your heart health, your lungs and your circulation. You are also approximately six times more likely to develop oral cancer if you drink alcohol to excess.

Too much sun can increase your chances of developing oral cancer. Protect your lips with an SPF fortified lip balm or by wearing a hat that blocks sunlight from your face. If you’ve had oral cancer in the past, or if someone in your family has had oral cancer, you have higher risk of developing the disease. The presence of HPV has also been linked to increased oral cancer risk.

You can develop oral cancer at any age, though your risk increases dramatically after you hit 45. Your diet may also contribute to developing oral cancer, so be sure to eat a diet full of vegetables and fruits to help prevent cancerous cell growth. Men also get oral cancer more frequently than women.

Understand Prevention and the Importance of Routine Dental Care

There are ways for you to thwart the onset of oral cancer. Limit your consumption of alcohol and protect your face and lips in sunlight. Quit tobacco and eat a balanced diet. Learn the common symptoms of oral cancer and be aware of any changes to your oral health.

You have a better chance of surviving oral cancer the earlier you receive a diagnosis. Dentists are often very important in diagnosing oral cancers in patients, which is one reason why routine dental care is so essential to your total body health. You should visit the dentist at least twice a year to make sure he has adequate time to diagnose oral cancer. If you are at higher risk, your dentist may want to see you more often than twice a year. Regular screenings ensure that we catch any cancer faster, which gives you more time for treatment and increases your chances of survival.