Dental benefits

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Oral cancer screenings and dental exams

With Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April, let’s take a moment to review how you can take steps to keep your mouth healthy.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 51,540 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in 2018. While those numbers are staggering, routine trips to the dentist can help. Because dentists may be able to detect oral cancer early, they can significantly improve the chances for successful treatment and provide greater treatment options.

There are easy steps you can take to prevent oral cancer, like doing a self-exam at home, limiting alcohol intake and not smoking or using other tobacco products. According to the American Cancer Society, you should do a self-check about once a month. Simply use a mirror to get a good view of your mouth and take note of any issues (see Oral cancer indicators).

If you notice any of these indicators, be sure to bring them up during your next dental exam so your dentist can examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer.

Because dental checkups can be an effective measure for finding and diagnosing oral cancer and other oral health issues early, they are 100 percent covered under most dental plans. The importance of regular checkups can’t be overstated, so make sure to visit your dentist.

Take steps this April and every month to ensure a strong defense against the possible threat of oral cancer.

Oral cancer indicators

Your dental hygienist and dentist will look for signs and symptoms of oral cancer when they perform a regular checkup.

Common indicators include:

• White or red patches in your mouth

• A sore that won’t heal

• Loose teeth

• Difficulty or pain when swallowing

• Difficulty wearing dentures

• A lump in your neck or cheek

• Pain in the mouth that doesn’t go away

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