April is oral cancer awareness month

April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Posted On: March 20, 2024

In 2023, over 54,000 people were diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States alone. This HUGE statistic is the reason April has become oral cancer awareness month. All dental professionals, including us here at Jones Orthodontics, are using this month to highlight the dangers of mouth cancer and what signs to look for.

Where to look for Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer occurs anywhere within the oral cavity. This includes:

  • Roof of mouth
  • Floor of mouth
  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Cheeks
  • Tongue
  • Cheeks

Causes of Oral Cancer 

There are numerous causes for oral cancer from genetics to environmental exposures. However, the leading cause of this disease is excessive use of alcohol and/or tobacco products. An over abundance of sun exposure to your lips as well as the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are other notable sources. 

Signs to look for

Visiting your general dentist twice a year for a dental cleaning and checkup is the first step in maintaining good oral hygiene. At these appointments, your dentist will check the inside of your mouth and tongue for any signs of cancer and address any concerns they may have. If you are concerned that you might be at risk for mouth cancer, look for the following:

  • Sores on the lips or inside the mouth that don’t heal and easily bleed
  • A growth or lump inside the mouth
  • White or reddish patch inside the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Difficult or painful chewing or swallowing
  • Mouth pain

The Oral Cancer Foundation has created a great website, Check Your Mouth, which walks you through step-by-step how you should check your mouth monthly to protect yourself. This website includes both pictures and a video to assist you as well as tools you will need. 

Diagnosing Oral Cancer

Doctors can diagnose oral cancer a few different ways:

1. Biopsy

If a doctor suspects cancer, they may take a biopsy of the area in the mouth in which they are concerned. A biopsy is a procedure where tissue is removed and studied under a microscope to identify abnormal cell growth.

2. CT Scan or MRI

Computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are two noninvasive imaging procedures that can detect abnormalities that a typical x-ray may not be able to.

Treatment Options

Once it has been confirmed that oral cancer is present, it will then be staged so the doctor can determine the best course of treatment. There are a variety of treatment options for oral cancer, but some of the most common include:


Surgery can be performed to remove any abnormal cells within the oral cavity. Reconstruction surgery may also be needed after the removal process.


This is the use of high energy rays that damage cancer cells and halt the spread of the disease. Radiation it is localized to minimize the damage to healthy cells within the body.


This is often the most aggressive form of treatment. Chemotherapy is the use of medication throughout the entire body to destroy cancer cells. It can be used alone or in conjunction with radiation.  


It’s important to properly brush and floss your teeth daily, and examine any troubled areas in your mouth while doing so. Although oral cancer is one of the most extreme cases, there are other common teeth problems you should be looking for as well. Your general dentist will also do cancer screenings at your annual check-up, so be sure to ask questions if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above or having oral pain and swelling.


At Jones Orthodontics, we promise to be on the look out for anything abnormal at each of your orthodontic appointments. We have three convenient locations in the triangle area: Chapel Hill, Durham, and Hillsborough.