Getting regular dental check-ups isn’t just about making sure you’re cleaning your teeth properly. Dentists can spot abnormalities in your mouth and symptoms that could indicate a serious health condition. Oral cancer affects more than 50,000 people in the US every year, and spotting those symptoms early can dramatically increase survival rates and improve prognosis.
Symptoms of oral cancer
Oral cancer or mouth cancer occurs when a tumor develops on the inside of the mouth. This can present itself in a number of ways:
- A lump on the inside of the mouth or in the neck
- A sore and persistent mouth ulcer
- Red or white patches inside the mouth
- Dysphagia, or pain when swallowing
- Numbness of the lips, tongue, or other areas inside your mouth
- Pain or stiffness of the jaw
- Speech problems or voice changes
You should also look out for other signs that could indicate cancer of any kind, such as unexplained and unintentional weight loss. If you notice any of the above oral symptoms, then you should book an appointment with either your dentist or your doctor to investigate them further.
Risk factors for oral cancer
Certain people are more at risk of developing oral cancer than others, depending largely on lifestyle factors and other risk factors, such as:
- Smoking or any other consumption of tobacco, including chewing tobacco
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Prolonged or excessive sun exposure, particularly when the lips are not properly protected
- Genetic factors, such as a family history of oral cancer (men are also more likely than women to develop oral cancer)
If any of the above risk factors apply to you, then you should be even more vigilant about screening for oral cancer
Oral cancer screenings
An oral cancer screening can be carried out by your dentist or your doctor to identify abnormal cells in your mouth. Sometimes, this will just require a visual examination, which means a dentist may notice symptoms and abnormalities during a routine dental check-up. Other times, additional tests and tools may be required to screen for oral cancer.
If abnormal cells are identified, then a sample of the tissue will be taken and sent off for further testing to determine whether or not the cells are cancerous. Oral cancer screenings help to identify cancerous or precancerous cells early so that the patient can be effectively diagnosed and treated before the cancer spreads or becomes more serious.
If you’re in need of a dental check-up, whether that’s to screen for oral cancer or just monitor your overall oral health and hygiene, then contact Advance Family Dentists to book a check-up in Advance, NC.