Cancer is a diagnosis that can stop anyone in their tracks. In most cases, cancer takes months or even years to produce symptoms, and it often develops internally and out of sight. But there’s a relatively common type of cancer that’s not just visible, but also highly preventable: oral cancer.

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

The Mayo Clinic says that the most common signs and symptoms of oral cancer are:

    • Lip or mouth sores that won’t heal or that get worse over time
    • White or reddish patches inside the mouth
    • Non-injury-related loose teeth
    • Growth or lump inside the mouth
    • Mouth and ear pain
    • Difficulty or pain when swallowing

What Are the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

Three of the most common risk factors for oral cancer are preventable, and they include:

Tobacco usage
It doesn’t matter if it’s cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, dip, or snuff, any tobacco product that comes into contact with your mouth can put you at risk of developing oral cancer.

Heavy alcohol consumption
Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of many types of cancer, including oral cancer. Like tobacco, alcohol can inflame tissue that it comes into contact with, including areas of your mouth where cancer can develop.

Excessive sun exposure on your lips
The sun’s UV rays cause cellular damage to skin cells, which can cause skin cancer. When you go outside, don’t forget to put sunscreen or sunblock on your lips, as they’re also vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays.

Two more risk factors that aren’t always preventable include:

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
HPV is extremely common, and in most people, it clears on its own. But certain types of the HPV virus can increase certain people’s risk of cancer, including oral cancer.

Weakened immune system
Our immune systems are always seeking out and destroying cancer cells. When it becomes weakened, it can no longer stop the uncontrolled growth of cells that is a trademark characteristic of cancer.

Oral Cancer Screenings Mean Early Diagnosis and Higher Survival Rates

Like all types of cancer, oral cancer can be deadly. And even when people survive advanced stages of oral cancer, they may need to have parts of their mouths surgically removed to excise cancerous tissue. The best way to avoid this is to catch oral cancer early via oral cancer screenings.

Thankfully, oral cancer screenings are quick and painless. They involve a two-part process:

Visual exam
Oral cancer is often identifiable with the naked eye, especially when it presents as sores, lumps, or growths. When we perform oral cancer screenings, we look at every part of the mouth to find abnormalities and inflammation.

Physical exam
When oral cancer can’t be easily seen, it can often be felt. We use physical exams to detect oral cancer by checking patients’ heads, cheeks, jaws, chins, and oral cavities for growths, bumps, and other potentially cancerous masses.

We also take into consideration any complaints of pain, swelling, or abnormalities that our patients tell us about. In many cases, patients can tell right away when something isn’t right inside or around their mouths, and this is often an early symptom of oral cancer.

Get Preventative Care at 101st Adult Dentistry

At 101st Adult Dentistry, we pride ourselves on being able to treat a wide variety of oral health problems. But our best work comes when we help patients avoid conditions like gum disease and even advanced stage oral cancer.

Request a dental appointment today to get a cleaning, an oral health evaluation, and an oral cancer screening. We want to protect your teeth, your smile, your mouth, and your overall health.