TRICARE Dental Program Is Your Ally in the Fight Against Oral Cancer > TRICARE Newsroom > TRICARE News

Oral cancer is not one of the most common types of cancer, but it is a serious problem. According to the National Institutes of Health, U.S. health care providers diagnose approximately 54,000 new cases of oral cancer each year.

As with all types of cancer, education and early detection are critical,” said Doug Elsesser, program analyst for the Defense Health Agency's TRICARE dental program. “Learn how to spot the warning signs of oral cancer before it spreads.”

Read on to learn about the causes and symptoms of oral cancer and how TRICARE Dental Plan (TDP) benefits can help you fight this disease.


Oral cancer includes cancer of the mouth and back of the throat. It affects more than twice as many men as women.

Several lifestyle choices can increase the risk of oral cancer. These include:

  • Tobacco use. Both smoking and smokeless tobacco increase your risk.
  • heavy drinking.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV). Infections with this sexually transmitted disease have been linked to oral cancer.
  • sun exposure. This can lead to lip cancer.


Oral cancer has many symptoms, including:

  • Pain, irritation, lumps, or lumps in your mouth, lips, or throat
  • White or red patches in your mouth
  • Sore throat or feeling like something is stuck in your throat
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking
  • Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue
  • swollen chin
  • Numbness of the tongue or other parts of the mouth
  • Earache

If you have these symptoms for more than two weeks, talk to your dentist.

Early detection is key

As with most types of cancer, the earlier oral cancer is caught, the better your chances of survival. You can perform an oral cancer self-examination using a mirror to check your mouth, face, and neck for lumps, swelling, tenderness, or abnormal skin texture.

Additionally, it is important to visit your dentist regularly. TDP covers two routine dental checkups within 12 consecutive months. If your routine checkup does not include an oral cancer test, have your dentist check for any oral abnormalities.

Oral Cancer and TDP Health Plan

If you or a family member have been diagnosed with oral cancer, you may be eligible for additional dental services through the TDP health plan. This free plan provides enhanced dental benefits to help you treat periodontal disease.

Covered gum disease services your dentist may recommend include additional annual periodontal maintenance services as well as scaling and root planning, which is a deep cleaning of the teeth to remove tartar and plaque beneath the gums and on the roots of the teeth. Your health benefits cover up to four periodontal procedures.

To sign up for the TDP Health Plan, add your health status to the Manage My Health section my account feature.

Looking for more dental health tips and information about TDP benefits? View the latest TRICARE Dental Plan health issues newsletter.

Would you like the latest TRICARE news sent to you by email?access TRICARE SUBSCRIPTIONand create your personalized profile to get benefits updates, news, and more.

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