There are many reasons why we should keep our regular dental appointments, including an examination of our teeth and gums to maintain good oral hygiene. Another very important reason to see your dentist is to enable him or her to check for any warning signs of other problems, including oral cancer. According to the American Cancer Society over 40,000 people in the United States received a diagnosis of oral cancer in 2014. Oral cancer is most common in people over the age 40, with men facing the greatest risk. Oral cancer can be life threatening if not detected and treated early, so it is vital to keep your regularly scheduled visits to the dentist.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer appears in the soft tissue of the mouth as a growth or sore that will not go away. Often oral cancer starts in the cells lining the lips and the inside of the mouth. Oral cancer can then spread to the tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses or throat. If not treated in a timely manner, the cancer can spread to the head, neck and other parts of the body.
What symptoms do I need to look for?
The most common symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Swelling, unexplained bleeding or numbness of the lips, gums or other areas inside the mouth
- Velvety white, red or speckled patches in the mouth that may bleed
- Persistent sores on the face, neck or mouth that will not go away and that bleed easily
- Difficulty in swallowing or chewing and moving the jaw or tongue
- Soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of your throat
- Hoarseness or chronic sore throat
- Change in how your teeth or denture fit together
- Ear pain
- Dramatic weight loss
What lifestyle changes can I make to reduce my risk of getting oral cancer?
To help prevent the risk of getting oral cancer you should consider the following lifestyle changes:
- Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products (dip, snuff or chewing tobacco products) or drink heavily
- Eat a well-balanced diet, that includes fruit and vegetables
- Avoid overexposure to the sun
- Keep up with your routine dental appointments
When you make a preventative care appointment at Dr. Ted Melchers office, we do a thorough evaluation of your mouth. This screening is painless and only takes a few minutes. We treat patients and their families throughout the low country of South Carolina. Our dental team is here to help develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: NIH NIDCR, “Detecting Oral Cancer: A Guide for Health Care Professionals”