Early signs of oral cancer may often be mistaken for other issues such as a cold or tooth pain. But if you experience unusual symptoms that persist for weeks, you will want to see your dental practitioner. When diagnosed at the early stages, individuals with oral cancer can have a high treatment success rate.
Symptoms and Signs
Oral cancer is a term that includes pharynx and mouth cancers. It also affects approximately 48,000 people. Twice as common with the male population than female, it’s estimated that 9,500 individuals will die from this form of cancer. Fortunately, regular checkups with your dentist can play a key role in catching the disease at its early stages. You can also be on the lookout for abnormalities that include
- Lumps, sores and skin irritations in the mouth or throat
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Numbness on the tongue or mouth
- Jaw swelling
- Red or white patches in the mouth
- Changes in voice tone
- Bad breath that persists
- Weight loss
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
It’s hard to determine the exact cause, but there are specific factors that can place individuals at greater risk for oral cancer than others. Cigarettes, pipes, cigars and smokeless forms of tobacco can increase your chances of oral cancer by as much as 90 percent. The National Institute of Dental Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) also finds that heavy alcohol consumption can raise a person’s chances of oral cancer. If you smoke and drink, your chances are even greater. With most cases occurring past the age of 40, a diet low in veggies and fruits boosts your risk of developing the disease. Sun exposure and sexually transmitted diseases are other risk factors. Your dental provider offers different dental services to assist with your oral health and wellness. These could include regular checkups, teeth cleaning, comprehensive exams, digital x-rays, fluoride treatments and emergency care. Oral cancer screenings provided by your family dentist can also help catch the disease at its early stages. That’s why it’s important to see your dentist on a regular basis.
Treatments and Screenings
Your dentist can perform the oral cancer screening during your routine exam. At this time, they’ll examine the gums, mouth and throat for abnormal signs. If they find anything out of the ordinary, they may need to perform additional tests to determine abnormal mouth cells. If you have been diagnosed with oral cancer, the treatment methods can vary, dependent on the aggressive nature of the cancer. Sometimes simply removing the lesions and tissue underneath is enough. Other serious stages of oral cancer may need a more aggressive approach such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Patients who continue to smoke, drink and use tobacco in any form are placing themselves at an even greater risk for the cancer to return.
You can take a proactive role in preventing oral cancer by flossing and brushing your teeth on a regular basis. If you smoke, find methods to immediately stop. Hypnotism therapy, the patch and quitting cold turkey are proven methods of ditching the tobacco usage habit. If you drink, do so in moderation. Excessive alcohol use and binge drinking boosts your chances significantly. If you go out in the sun, protective lip balm with a UV-A/B blocking mechanism helps protects your lips and mouth. Cancer fighting foods such as grapes, cabbage, berries, tomatoes and broccoli play a key role in your oral health. Visiting your dentist office regularly and conducting thorough self-exams are other helpful methods of oral cancer prevention.
Oral cancer is a serious disease that can affect the gums, mouth and throat. But with early detection and oral cancer screenings performed during your regular dental visit, you can catch the disease at its early stages and help to make a full recovery.