Oral Health and Oral Cancer

Each year, approximately 40,000 people will be diagnosed with Oral Cancer in the U.S but only slightly more than half will survive longer than 5 years.  More than 7,800 people, mostly older Americans, die from oral and pharyngeal (mouth and throat) cancer each year.


  • Periodic Oral Cancer screening examinations can lead to early detection and improved outcomes
  • Fluoride application and more frequent cleaning appointments may help reduce the risk of cavities caused by side effects of previous oral cancer treatments


Why is it important to see my dentist if I’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer?

An individual with oral cancer may have up to a 40 fold increase in developing primary oral cancer.  Frequent prediagnostic oral cancer screenings can lead to early oral cancer detection and improved outcomes.

Oral cancer treatments can also lead to salivary gland dysfunction. Dryness of the mouth due to reduced or absent salivary flow increases the risk of infection and compromises speaking, chewing and swallowing. More importantly, persistent dry mouth also increases the risk for dental caries. 

  • Lifelong risks of rampant dental decay can begin within 3 months of completing radiation treatment if changes in either quantity or quality of saliva persist
  • Fluoride applications and more frequent cleaning appointments may help reduce the risk of cavities cause by the side effects of previous oral cancer treatments
  • Over the counter fluoride rinses are not adequate to prevent tooth demineralization, fluoride treatments provided by a dental professional or prescription strength fluoride is recommended for those previously diagnosed with oral cancer.

Historically the death rate associated with oral cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in it’s development.  Early detection is the key to increasing your chances.  Enrolling in Enhanced Dental Benefits will allow you to get condition specific benefits in addition to the dental benefits you currently have with HMSA today.  Go to the Enroll Online link to get started.

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