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A Guide to Healthy Teeth

A Guide to Common Dental Problems

How to prevent or treat the (sometimes painful) troubles that can lurk in your mouth.

By Sally Solo
Woman running water and holding a toothbrushMonica Buck

Problem: Oral Cancers


An oral cancer may start with a small, pale, red, painless lump on some area of the mouth. A dentist can easily screen for the disease by examining and feeling around a patient's mouth, head, and neck.
 
Who’s at risk: Of the estimated 30,000 cases of oral cancer diagnosed each year in this country, about three-quarters are associated with tobacco use or tobacco in combination with heavy alcohol use. Most cases occur after age 40. Many people aren't screened, and detection usually occurs when the cancer is at an advanced stage. That's why the five-year survival rate is one of the lowest for all cancers.
 
What to do: Stop smoking, and make sure your dentist screens you every time you visit. Even people missing many or all of their teeth should see a dentist regularly to make sure their dentures fit, as chronic irritation can be a risk factor.

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