Although you know your dentist can help you feel better about your smile with cosmetic dentistry and help you maintain good oral health in Newton with regular cleanings, one thing many patients overlook about their dental exam is that it could actually be lifesaving. During an exam, your dentist will perform an oral cancer screening to look for signs of this often symptomless disease. By diagnosing oral cancer early, your dentist can help you get the urgent treatment you need for the best possible outcomes. Here is what you need to know about this type of cancer.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer refers to cancer that begins in any part of the mouth or throat, including the lips, cheeks, and hard and soft palate. Although it is typically treated when it is caught early, it can be life threatening if allowed to progress and spread. Although anyone can get oral cancer, it is most common in people who smoke or use smokeless tobacco products, consume excessive amounts of alcohol, or have certain kinds of human papillomavirus (HPV). Excessive sun exposure and a family history of oral cancer also increase the risk. Men over 50 are the most likely to get oral cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Oral cancer may cause no symptoms, or the symptoms may be so subtle that you don’t notice them. They include swelling, rough patches, or lips in or around the mouth, and sores that do not heal within two weeks. Unexplained bleeding, soreness, numbness, and tenderness in the mouth are also signs. If you have dentures, you may notice a chance in the way they fit. If the cancer is in your throat, you may become chronically hoarse or feel like something is caught in your throat. Your dentist should evaluate all of these symptoms, even if they seem minor.
How is oral cancer diagnosed and treated?
If your dentist notices a suspicious area in your mouth, he or she will order a biopsy. If you are diagnosed with oral cancer, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation may all be recommended. Your treatment plan will depend on the location and stage of the cancer.