Oral cancer, though often overshadowed by more widely recognized forms of cancer, is a significant health concern that deserves our attention. Every year, thousands of individuals are diagnosed with oral cancer, with many cases unfortunately leading to serious health complications or even fatalities. However, the good news is that early detection and awareness can make a tremendous difference in outcomes. It’s crucial to recognize the importance of oral cancer awareness, explore its risk factors, symptoms, and the role your dentist can play in promoting early detection and prevention.

Key Facts About Oral Cancer

Let’s shed some light on key facts about oral cancer. Oral cancer encompasses cancers of the lips, tongue, gums, floor of the mouth, roof of the mouth, and inner lining of the cheeks. While tobacco and alcohol use remain significant risk factors, the rise in cases linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV) highlights the importance of understanding the evolving landscape of this disease. Additionally, factors such as poor oral hygiene, prolonged sun exposure, compromised immune system and family history can also increase one’s susceptibility to oral cancer.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

One of the most critical aspects of oral cancer awareness is recognizing its signs and symptoms. These can include persistent mouth sores, red patches, white patches, pain or difficulty swallowing, a lump or thickening in the oral cavity, chronic hoarseness, or changes in the fit of dentures. It’s essential to note that these symptoms can often be subtle or easily dismissed and in some rare cases missed altogether because you may not have any pain or symptoms to alert you. This further emphasizes the significance of regular dental check-ups. Pay attention to these signs and symptoms:

Red Patches (Erythroplakia)
Red lesions or patches that appear in the soft tissue lining of your mouth and throat. Typically found on your tongue or the floor of your mouth. These lesions can not be scraped off.

White/Gray Patches (Leukoplakia)
Similar to Erythroplakia but white patches instead of red and are often found alongside each other.

Mouth sores
These can include mouth ulcers, canker sores and blisters. Typically, these sores are a concern if they persist for more than two weeks.

Difficulty Swallowing/Chewing
A common symptom of esophageal cancer is difficulty swallowing. If you are constantly choking on your food or have pressure when swallowing, this could be a sign there is a more serious issue.

Most lumps or mouth growths due to trauma, hormones or infections are noncancerous. However, if a lump appears for more than several weeks, you should consult your dentist immediately.

What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening

During oral cancer screenings, dental professionals carefully examine the mouth, lips, tongue, gums, throat, and other oral tissues for any signs or symptoms of abnormalities that could indicate the presence of oral cancer. This examination typically involves a visual inspection of the oral cavity, as well as a physical examination where the dentist or hygienist may palpate the neck and throat to check for any lumps or enlarged lymph nodes. In some cases, additional diagnostic tools such as special lights or dyes may be used to aid in the detection of suspicious lesions. If any abnormalities are detected, further diagnostic tests or referrals to specialists may be recommended for a comprehensive evaluation and appropriate management. Oral cancer screenings are quick, painless, and can be performed during routine dental check-ups, making them an essential component of preventive dental care.

Prevention of Oral Cancer

While it’s impossible to prevent oral cancer, you can significantly reduce your risk with a few changes including adopting healthy lifestyle habits and regular dental hygiene visits.

  • Avoiding tobacco products in any form, including smoking, chewing tobacco, and nicotine pouches. This can significantly reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption and abstaining from heavy drinking as this also plays a crucial role in prevention.
  • Protecting the lips from excessive sun exposure by using lip balms with SPF and wearing hats or seeking shade when outdoors can reduce the risk of lip cancer.
  • Practicing good oral hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, along with routine dental check-ups, helps maintain oral health and enables early detection of any abnormalities.

By incorporating these preventive measures into daily life, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of oral cancer and promote overall oral health and well-being.

Schedule Your Oral Cancer Screening Now

At 101st Adult Dentistry, we treat a wide variety of oral health problems and provide peace of mind when it comes to oral cancer screenings. Early detection through regular screenings significantly improves treatment outcomes and survival rates, underscoring the importance of why we include oral cancer screenings in routine dental examinations. Request a dental appointment to receive your oral cancer screening.