It has been beaten into your brain, you have heard it so many times you could scream... The American Dental Association recommends you see your dentist twice a year for regular cleanings and check-ups. One of the reasons it is recommended to have regular check up's for your mouth, much like for the rest of your body, is to screen for any abnormalities. The impact of oral cancer screening is just as vital as screening for cancers anywhere else. According to The American Dental Association, 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral and throat cancers this year. The 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is only slightly more than 64% therefore, when cancer is detected and treated early, treatment-related health problems are reduced. Oral Cancer can range from your lips all the way to back of your throat and everywhere in between. Look inside your mouth and think about all that surface area. As your dentist, I make it a point to look for any signs or symptoms of anything abnormal in your mouth, this does not just include decay in or on your teeth. I am looking for any redness, lumps, lesions and your bite. When I ask you questions about how your mouth is feeling, I am wanting to know if you are having any soreness, tenderness, and swelling. What you may think something that is not that big of a deal, it may be. When I am asking about your family history - though it may seem strange that I am a dentist, as you know, having an idea of what the family's history of illness is can be an indicator in your own body.
I encourage that if between your regular visits to your dentist's office you notice anything that seems off, do not hesitate to give your doctor a call. I am sure he/she will be more than happy to schedule an appointment even just to put your mind at ease. Keep in mind there are many things that can stick out to indicate something may be abnormal. According to The American Dental Association, the symptoms of mouth or throat can include:
- A sore or irritation that does not go away
- Red or white patches
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
Patients over the age of 40 tend to be more at risk of these factors, it has however been found in patients younger than that. Contributing factors can include tobacco/nicotine users of all kinds, HPV has even been associated with certain types of oral cancer. Keeping your mouth healthy with brushing, flossing, fluoride use, regular dental visits, a good diet, and keeping your mouth moist will not only assist in presentation of tooth decay but oral cancers as well.
For more information about oral cancers please visit http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oral-cancer or http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/