Oral cancer is easy for doctors to treat as long as it is caught early - especially with routine visits to the dentist. Unfortunately, all too often, dental appointments are missed and so is the early oral cancer detection, leaving many left to face a tough battle that can be life-threatening.
Oral cancer can impact the cheeks, lips, tongue, mouth floor, throat, sinuses, as well as hard and soft palates.
So, what are the symptoms you should be looking for? And, can you prevent oral cancer?
Signs of Oral Cancer
Knowing what to look for can be a great way to address oral cancer before it progresses - which means knowing the signs can help. Here’s what you can look for:
- A sore that doesn’t heal, whether on the lips or inside the mouth.
- A lump or thickening in the lips, mouth, or cheek.
- Bleeding sores.
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing.
- Red or white patches on the tongue, tonsils, gums, or lining of the mouth.
- Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue.
- Changes in voice.
- Pain in the mouth that doesn’t disappear.
- Loose teeth.
- Numb areas on the lip, tongue, or throughout the mouth.
- Swelling and/or pain in the jaw.
- A mass or lump in the back of the throat or in the neck.
Some of these signs are easy to spot, others not so much. But with routine visits to the dentist, you are giving yourself access to the person who can best spot oral cancer early.
Risk Factors of Oral Cancer
While anyone may be subject to oral cancer, there are a few risk factors that increase the chances of one developing it. It is important that you understand these risk factors - and that you take even more precautions against oral cancer should any apply to you.
- Tobacco use of all kinds, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff
- Unprotected exposure of lips to the sun
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Heavy alcohol use
- A weakened immune system
Again, oral cancer can impact anyone, but it is much more common in men, those who are obese, and individuals over the age of 55 years.
How to Prevent Oral Cancer
There are a few things you can do to help prevent oral cancer - and it starts with making healthy lifestyle choices, such as:
- Keep your mouth healthy by brushing your teeth at least twice per day and flossing daily.
- Quit using tobacco. It doesn’t matter how you use it, ridding your life of tobacco is necessary if you want to prevent oral cancer.
- Drink alcohol in moderation as the more you drink, the greater your risk.
- Consider getting vaccinated for HPV.
- Wear protective lip balm with SPF.
Finally, visiting your dentist regularly is important. Routine cleanings and oral examinations give your dentist the opportunity to notice any signs or potentially cancerous growths that may need to be addressed further.
Oral Cancer Screenings at Paramount Dental Arts
At Paramount Dental Arts, we want our patients to feel as good as possible - and oral health plays a big role in that. That’s why every time we are examining your oral health needs, we consider the signs of oral cancer. After all, early detection is crucial.