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General Information About Oral Cancer

    Oral cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lips, mouth, or throat.

    Oral cancer may form in any of three main areas:

    • Lips.
    • Oral cavity, which includes:
      • The front two thirds of the tongue.
      • The gingiva (gums).
      • The buccal mucosa (the lining of the inside of the cheeks).
      • The floor (bottom) of the mouth under the tongue.
      • The hard palate (the front, bony part of the roof of the mouth).
      • The retromolar trigone (the small area behind the wisdom teeth).

      cdr0000716338.jpg
      Anatomy of the oral cavity. The oral cavity includes the lips, hard palate (the bony front portion of the roof of the mouth), soft palate (the muscular back portion of the roof of the mouth), retromolar trigone (the area behind the wisdom teeth), front two-thirds of the tongue, gingiva (gums), buccal mucosa (the inner lining of the lips and cheeks), and floor of the mouth under the tongue.
    • Oropharynx, which includes:
      • The middle part of the pharynx (throat) behind the mouth.
      • The back third of the tongue.
      • The soft palate (the back, soft part of the roof of the mouth).
      • The side and back walls of the throat.
      • The tonsils.

    Most oral cancers start in squamous cells (thin, flat cells) that line the lips, oral cavity, and oropharynx. Cancer that forms in squamous cells is called squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma can form from lesions on the mucous membranes (the lining of the mouth and throat). These lesions include leukoplakia (an abnormal white patch of cells) and erythroplakia (an abnormal red patch of cells).

    In Western countries, such as the United States, the most common areas for oral cancer are the tongue and the floor of the mouth.

    Oral cancer is more common in men than in women.

    . Men are more than twice as likely as women to have oral cancer and die from it.

      WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

      Last Updated: February 25, 2014
      This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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      How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

      Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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      Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

      You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

      You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

      Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

      SOURCES:

      American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

      This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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