As we observe , now is the perfect time to remember the importance of getting checked for oral cancer. This form of cancer can affect your lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, sinuses, and other regions, which can all be life-threatening if left untreated.
At WhiteWing Dental, it is the goal of our McAllen and La Feria dentists, to not only provide you and your family with quality dental care but to also ensure that your oral health promotes your overall well being as well.
At WhiteWing Dental, we look for signs of oral cancer during your routine cleanings but are also capable of using various screening processes and painless tests to detect oral cancer. We are your first line of defense against this serious threat and it is essential that you schedule a checkup to catch it early.
What to Expect at Your Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer examinations are quick and painless but extremely important in detecting oral cancer early. During your routine exam, our WhiteWing dentists will check your lips, mouth, gums, tongue, and throat for any visual signs. They will also feel for any lumps or irregularities around your jawline, head, or face.
Alongside your oral screen and routine exam, one of WhiteWing Dental team members will update your medical history. It is absolutely vital that you tell the truth about your diet, any medications you are taking, as well discuss behaviors that can increase your likelihood of developing cancer, including smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
If your dentist detects any abnormalities, a biopsy of the area will be recommended.
Please keep in mind, however, that an abnormality does not automatically mean oral cancer. You may need a reexamination within a week or two to see if the site has healed on their own.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
While your dentist will examine your mouth and teeth thoroughly to check for dental health issues, including oral cancer, it is also important that you recognize some of the symptoms that may point to a major health issue.
If you are experiencing any of the following signs, and they have persisted for more than two weeks, it is critical that you visit your doctor immediately:
- Sores, lumps, or thick patches around your mouth or throat
- The feeling of a lump stuck in your throat
- Discomfort using dentures because of swelling
- Red or white lesions in your mouth or on your lips
- Pain, tenderness, or even numbness anywhere in your mouth or tongue
- A persistent sore throat
- Trouble with chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Loose teeth not caused by trauma or some other dental issue
- Ear pain
What Happens if Oral Cancer is Detected
If you receive a positive diagnosis (meaning that you do have oral cancer), you will likely undergo surgery followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Preventing Oral Cancer
An effective daily oral hygiene routine is one step in preventing oral cancer but it is important to avoid risky behaviors and lifestyle choices that can increase your risk of developing the disease. These behaviors and risk factors can include:
- Tobacco use (dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco)
- Excessive alcohol use
- Sun exposure
- A diet deficient in fruits and vegetables
- Genetic predisposition
- The human papillomavirus (HPV 16) has recently been associated with a subset of oral cancers
You can take an active role in detecting oral cancer by conducting a self-examination which should include checking your gums, lips, the roof of your mouth, the lining of your cheeks, your tongue, and the back of your throat for any lumps or enlarged lymph nodes.
It’s also important to note that periodontal disease has been associated with an increased risk of oral cancer. Failing to receive the proper dental care you need can really jeopardize your health.