In the U.S., there are about 54,000 new cases of oral cancer every year. While most of these are adult patients, oral cavity cancer can affect children of all ages. Mouth cancer can affect various tissues in the mouth, including the gums, cheeks, and hard palate. The most common types are sarcoma and lymphoma.
Watching out for signs of cancer can help protect your child against the later stages of this disease. Likewise, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of your child developing oral cavity cancer.
Generally, dentists are the first medical practitioners to notice signs of cancer in the mouth. During your children's dental exams, the dentist will check the oral cavity, including the tongue, gums, cheeks and lips. Additionally, they will feel the neck and jaw for any signs of abnormalities or growth.
Children with cancer may struggle with chronic ear pain, sore throats, and numbness in the oral cavity. Look for abnormal changes in your children's voices and sores that will not heal. Your kids may complain of soreness when talking, swallowing, or chewing.
Regular dental appointments can reduce the risk of late-stage oral cancer. If your children have exams every six months, the dentist is more likely to spot the signs of cancer early on.
Maintaining good oral hygiene may also reduce any risk of cancer. Help your children brush at least twice a day.
In addition to dental care, give your children a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of various illnesses, including cancer. In addition, some strains of HPV increase your children's risk. Consider having children between the ages of 11 and 12 vaccinated for HPV.
No parent wants to see their children struggle with cancer. While oral cancer is rare among children, it still deserves your attention. To protect your children, schedule regular dental appointments and give them healthy options to boost their immune systems. Contact us today for a pediatric oral health screening!