Routine checkups with your dentist help more than just your beautiful smile. They’re an important chance for the dentist to check for signs of oral cancer.
Mouth cancer can arise from any part of the mouth including the lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, the roof of the mouth, tonsils and the salivary glands. The number of people diagnosed with mouth and throat cancers has been rising over the last several years, which may be linked to lifestyle. Your dentists play a huge role in preventing and treating poor oral health through preventive advice. They can also help you through early identification of mouth cancer and onward referral. Let us look at the ways dental health teams can help you reduce the risk of developing mouth cancer.
Oral Cancer symptoms and signs
Early symptoms of most mouth cancer are misinterpreted as a cold or toothache. If symptoms persist, it is important to see your doctor at first so that, if oral cancer is present, it is able to be diagnosed as quickly as possible.
Some of the most common mouth cancer symptoms include:
- Mouth sores that do not heal
- A lump or thickening in the cheek, tongue or other areas of the mouth
- A white or red patch on the gums, tonsil, tongue or lining of the mouth
- A sore throat or feeling that something has caught in the throat
- Difficulty in swallowing or chewing
- Difficulty in moving the jaw or tongue
- Jaw swelling
- Weight loss
- Persistent bad breath
If you have these symptoms, your dentist may recommend tests to check for oral cancer. As with any cancer, it is important to diagnose mouth cancer at an early stage, when more treatment options may be available.
Why Screening Works
Oral cancer is ideal to detect early by screening. It is frequently preceded by an identifiable pre-malignant lesion and the progression from dysplasia occurs for 2-8 years. These are identified only during oral screenings.
For all individuals, regular dental examinations are critical to the early detection of oral cancer. Patients with a history of smoking or consumption of alcohol should perform monthly self-examinations of their tongues and oral cavity.
During Screening Test
Oral cancer screening is a precautionary medical examination performed by a dentist to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth. The goal of oral cancer screening is to identify mouth cancer early when cancer or lesions are easiest to remove and most likely to be cured.
There are different types of cancer screening, and your dentist is most likely to give you a basic exam initially that includes a thorough look at all the parts of your mouth including the face, neck, lips, inside of the nose and oral cavity. The dentist looks for asymmetries like patches, swellings or other abnormalities during the screening. After the visual examination, the dentist will use specialized examining tools to complete oral cancer screening.
After Your Oral Cancer Screening
An oral cancer screening is precautionary, not diagnostic. If your dentist finds everything normal during the exam, the patient can be requested to return for further screening at regular intervals – especially if the person uses alcohol or tobacco, those increases the risk of oral cancers. Sometimes the dentist refers patients for additional examinations to get to the bottom of certain symptoms.
More than just a medical examination, the oral cancer screening is a perfect opportunity for the patient to talk to the dentist about fears and concerns, and to ask for medical advice about reducing the risk.