We regularly hear that regular dental visits are important, but do you ever wonder why? Well in this blog, we’ll discuss the importance of the examinations and their role in early detection of oral cancer. Oral cancer screening is something our team performs at each dental hygiene visit. If you aren’t making your yearly dental visits, then we aren’t able to screen for suspicious lesions that could be early cancerous spots. If it’s been a while since your last dental visit or you’re needing to establish a new family dentist in the Lafayette area, book your appointment here.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is most commonly referred to as head and neck cancers. Almost 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Surprisingly, the death rate for oral cancer is rather high compared to other cancer diagnoses. This is not due to it being hard to treat or discover, but because it is usually found late in development. Early detection can greatly increase the survival rate of patients and it is encouraged to regularly see your dental provider to screen and monitor any areas of concern. It is also important to remember that in its early stages, it is hard to detect and is not always accompanied by pain or obvious symptoms that you may recognize on your own. Yearly check-ups with your dentist can literally save your life.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer:
Oral cancer, or mouth cancer, can occur on the following areas:
- Inner lining of the cheeks
- Roof of the mouth
- Floor of the mouth (under the tongue)
If you are noticing sores that are not healing, white or reddish patches on the soft tissues, loose teeth, lumps, mouth/ear pain, or discomfort swallowing, you should bring this up to your local dentist. If any of these symptoms last for more than two weeks or are not improving, then it is likely something is going on or an infection is setting in.
Once the cancerous cells develop and start accumulating, they can spread to other areas of the head and neck or grow into tumors. This is why early detection can dramatically reduce your risk of death.
Who does Oral Cancer affect?
Oral cancer does not discriminate, but the majority of people affected with this cancer are above the age of 40. It is seen more significant in men over women, reporting that males are three times more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer.
If you wear dentures, you should still see your dentist for regular screenings. Even if you don’t have all of your teeth, you are still susceptible to oral cancer forming. It has been observed that denture wearers are more likely to miss the opportunity of early detection of symptoms and lesions.
Also, tobacco users are at a higher risk of developing cancer of the mouth. It is recommended to limit alcohol use and keep up with a healthy diet. If you have a family history of cancer, you may be more at risk. There is no way to prevent this cancer from forming, but you can decrease your risk by these lifestyle choices. Here are other things to keep in mind to keep your teeth healthy as you age.
How is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?
Your local dentist can be an integral part of early diagnosis of oral cancer. This is because they are experts in what a healthy mouth looks like. They have a better chance at detecting areas of concern that you may miss yourself. Oral cancer screenings will allow your dentist to look for any abnormalities and changes to your soft tissues in the mouth. If something does look suspicious, a biopsy may be needed to determine the next steps.
Oral cancer affects thousands of Americans yearly. Through routine dental examinations, we can aid in early detection and increase your chances of survival. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a dental visit, be sure to reach out to us, your Lafayette Dental Provider.