When you go to the dentist office for a routine deep teeth cleaning and oral examination, you may have had your mouth, tongue and throat checked closely for oral cancer. It may not seem like a big deal, but this quick, simple check can be a lifesaver. Like other forms of cancer, oral cancer is dangerous and is fatal if not diagnosed and treated early on. Unfortunately, oral cancer progresses rapidly and exhibits very subtle symptoms that are often overlooked. With oral cancer, there aren’t always visible symptoms or pain or discomfort. Only the trained eye of a dental professional can identify these subtle signs.
Who’s at Risk for Oral Cancer?
Like other forms of cancer, anyone can develop oral cancer. Even though healthy patients who take great care of their teeth and gums can get it, there are some patients who are at greater risks of getting oral cancer. Below are the patients who are more likely to develop oral cancer some time in their life:
- Those who smoke
- Those who chew tobacco
- Those who consume excessive alcohol
- Those who participate in risky sexual behavior, namely oral sex
- Those that don’t regularly see the dentist for check-ups
- Those with a previous cancer diagnosis
- Those with significant sun exposure to the face
The Signs of Oral Cancer
One of the biggest reasons that oral cancer is so dangerous is that some of the symptoms aren’t noticeable. Patients can be unaware that they have the beginnings of oral cancer. When noticeable symptoms arise, it may be too late for effective treatment. This is why regular dentist office visits every six months are important.
While some of the signs of oral cancer may be unnoticeable, there are others symptoms that should be red flags and warrant a prompt visit to the dentist. These oral cancer symptoms include:
- Mouth ulcers that don’t seem to go away
- Red or white patches in the mouth, particularly on the gums, inside of cheeks, around the tongue, on the lips and along the throat lining
- Unusual lumps and swelling in the mouth
How Oral Cancer is Diagnosed?
Oral cancer has been on the rise in recent years and more cases have been noticed among young adults and adults who are healthy. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest ones are the widespread lack of information and awareness of oral cancer. Patients can better protect themselves through regular oral cancer screenings and through recognizing the symptoms.
At Lincoln Dental Associates, we conduct an oral cancer screening on every patient. We make it a part of our routine oral examination. It is important to note that an oral cancer screening and diagnosis doesn’t treat the condition, nor does a screening protect one from getting oral cancer. The purpose of these tests and diagnoses is to spur proactive, preventative treatment and care to halt the progression or formation of the cancer.
At Lincoln Dental Associates, we take oral cancer seriously and believe these screening are important for the health of our patients. Below is what you can expect from an oral cancer examination:
- We’ll do a thorough look inside of the mouth. We may use a light to look for red or white patches or sores in the mouth. The light will make abnormal cells and tissue appear lighter in color.
- We’ll feel the inside of your mouth for abnormal lumps
If you wear dentures, we’ll ask you to remove them for the exam. This will let us get a better look at the gums and other areas of the mouth that are covered by the dentures.
Should we find something unusual, we’ll conduct further testing. This may include having you rinse with a special blue dye that adheres to abnormal cells. We also may perform a biopsy, whereby we remove a sample of cells to be examined in a laboratory to determine whether cancer is present.
Should we do any of these additional tests, we’ll request you come in for a follow-up appointment to see if any improvements have occurred.
If it has been more than six months since you last paid us a visit or you notice abnormal changes in your mouth, contact us today to schedule an appointment for your family dentistry in Lincoln, NE needs. Oral cancer is nothing to take lightly and early, proactive treatment is the best way to maintain good health.