According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, more than 48,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer each year. Of those, just over 50 percent will live more than five years beyond their diagnosis. Unfortunately, oral cancer causes more than 9,500 deaths every year—that’s about one death every hour of every day. A dedicated dental team takes those numbers very seriously. That’s why your dentist in North Dallas conducts an oral cancer screening during each and every dental exam. Read on to learn about the risks and signs of oral cancer and how regular screenings can literally save your life!
What are the Risks for Oral Cancer?
There are certain behaviors that tend to be risk factors for developing oral cancer. Chief among them is the use of smoking or chewing tobacco. Add excessive alcohol consumption to that and the risk increases even higher.
Other risk factors include:
- Being over the age of 40
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Gender, because men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women
- An unhealthy diet
- Too much time in the sun
Oral cancer screenings are vitally important because the disease does sometimes strike even if you don’t have any of the risk factors listed above.
Signs of Oral Cancer
During a screening for oral cancer, the dentist looks for outward changes in your mouth’s soft tissue and other factors that may indicate the presence of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells such as:
- A sore in your mouth or on your lips that hasn’t healed in several weeks and may bleed
- A red or white patch that can be either smooth or scaly
- A spot anywhere in your mouth that feels numb
- A lump in your mouth, along the jaw or down your neck
- Loose teeth or ill-fitting dentures
- An earache, but no sign of infection
- Difficulty swallowing or a persistent sore throat
How An Oral Cancer Screening Works
To thoroughly examine your oral cavity, throat and neck for signs of oral cancer, the following steps are performed.
- We visually and physically examine the inside of your cheeks and gums as well as the roof and floor of your mouth
- The dentist or hygienist palpates the lymph nodes in your neck and jaw
- Examine the inside and outside of your lips, your jaw joints and around your ears
- Look at your face to spot swellings or asymmetries
- Check the top, back, sides and underside of your tongue
- Visually examine your throat
- We’ll ask you about your smoking or drinking habits as well as any regular medications you take that may affect the condition of your mouth and throat
If you notice any of the signs listed above, then please don’t wait for your next scheduled appointment. Call our office for an oral cancer screening. Early detection is the key to treatment and survival!
About the Author
Dr. John A. Grinaldi is a North Dallas dentist who is dedicated to providing the best comprehensive dental care possible. He knows that educating his patients about oral cancer and conducting regular screenings can ultimately save lives. He can be reached for questions via his website or at (972) 770-4794.