Understanding Oral Cancer
Why Oral Cancer Screening Is Important
Each year, about 30,000 people in the US are diagnosed with oral cancer. Although the condition can be serious, early detection is the best weapon in fighting the disease.
Screenings can detect early signs of mouth or throat cancers, which can make all the difference in prognosis and outcome. As part of our general dental practice at Total Care Dentistry, we offer oral cancer screenings for our patients as part of our commitment to protecting your health.
Who can get oral cancer?
Anyone, including a child or adult, can get oral cancer. But those who smoke tobacco or cigarettes or who consume alcohol to excess are more susceptible to the condition. Most oral cancer diagnoses occur in people aged 50 or over, but younger people sometimes get it due to human papillomavirus (HPV).
Possible symptoms of oral cancer
If not spotted and treated early, oral cancer can spread, resulting in chronic pain loss of function, oral and facial impairment, or worse.
In addition to being screened by a dental professional, you can also perform a self-examination to check for symptoms and warning signs of oral cancer. If you encounter any of these issues, contact us at Total Care Dentistry immediately:
- Soreness and swelling for two weeks or longer
- Lumps growing around the mouth or in the neck areas
- Noticeable red and white dots or patches in the lips and mouth
- Constant or repeated bleeding from the throat
Types of Oral Cancers
There are different types of oral cancers, and some are more aggressive than others. During the screening process your dentist will be looking for signs of cancer in various places in your mouth, including:
- Salivary glands
- Inner cheek
- Hard palate
- Floor of mouth
Throat cancer is also a concern that your dentist can check for.
Oral Cancer Screening Process
During your regular checkup and exam, your dentist can perform an oral cancer screening quickly and painlessly. The dentist will visually inspect your mouth and gum tissue for any abnormalities that could be signs of oral cancer. The dentist may also feel the outside of your neck and jaw to check for any abnormalities.
Usually there is no extra charge unless you are required to have a follow-up treatment. Your insurance very often covers this screening as part of your dental health package.
If there are any signs of possible oral or throat cancer, you will be referred to a physician to have further tests performed. It may be that any abnormalities discovered during your screening are not cancerous, but it is better to err on the side of caution. Detecting oral cancers early so you can begin treatment right away is your best hope for overcoming this deadly disease.
Contact Total Care Dentistry today to schedule an appointment for a cleaning and next time you come in, make sure to ask about our oral cancer screening. It is just one of the many services we offer to protect your health and smile.