How Regular Dental Visits Can Help Prevent Oral Cancer
Approximately 50,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer every year. It causes nearly 10,000 deaths annually, and only about 50 percent of people who are diagnosed with oral cancer live more than 5 years.
With those figures in mind, it is obviously important to take all measures available to prevent oral cancer. This starts with making regular dental visits and having your dentist examine you for potential signs of oral cancer. If you aren't making a trip to your dentist's office once every six months at the moment, you should make it a priority to change that as soon as possible. With April being Oral Cancer Awareness Month, now is the perfect time to make an appointment.
Let's take a closer look at some of the symptoms of oral cancer and examine how regular dental visits can prevent oral cancer.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Cancer is often defined as cells in your body that grow uncontrollably and cause damage to the tissue that surrounds them. You can develop cancer in various parts of your body.
Oral cancer typically presents itself in the form of a sore located inside of your mouth that doesn't go away on its own. You can prevent oral cancer from becoming problematic by detecting it as early as possible during routine visits to your dentist.
What Are the Signs of Oral Cancer?
There are several obvious signs of oral cancer. Typically, oral cancer can be identified by the presence of:
- Red or white patches located inside of the mouth
- Sores located inside of the mouth that either bleed very easily or do not exhibit any signs of healing
- Thick spots or hard lumps located inside of the mouth
- Rough or crusty areas located inside of the mouth
While the warning signs listed above are the most common indications of oral cancer, you may experience other symptoms if you have it.
For example, numbness of the mouth is another sign of oral cancer. Pain or tender feelings in your mouth might be another. In some cases, a dentist can even tell that you are dealing with oral cancer simply by looking at the way your teeth come together when you bite down on them. If you have any trouble chewing, moving your tongue, or even speaking, you could also be at risk for oral cancer. These symptoms can also be signs of other health issues, though, which is why it's important to visit a dentist regularly to prevent oral cancer.
Where Will My Dentist Check for Oral Cancer?
Every time you visit your dentist, he or she will provide you with a full dental checkup. As part of this checkup, your dentist will try and prevent oral cancer by examining you for the signs of it.
This checkup primarily involves examining various parts of the inside of your mouth. A dentist will often begin by taking a look at your lips and any growth you might be experiencing on them. Your dentist will also check your gums, the inside of your cheeks, and every side of your tongue. Additionally, your dentist will inspect both the roof and floor of your mouth. The goal will be to thoroughly examine all areas of your mouth to prevent oral cancer from becoming an issue.
What Are Risk Factors Associated with Oral Cancer?
While oral cancer does affect some individuals seemingly out of nowhere, most of the risk factors commonly associated with oral cancer make it entirely preventable. Oral cancer often affects those who smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. It is also more likely to affect those who abuse alcohol. Smokeless tobacco products are known to cause oral cancer at increased rates in people, and even something as simple as sun exposure can lead to oral cancer if you aren't careful. There are also some infections like human papillomavirus that can put you at risk for developing oral cancer. Once you've developed oral cancer once, you're more likely to contract it again than most other people. As you can clearly see, you can reduce the chances of having to deal with oral cancer by steering clear of these risk factors.
How Will My Dentist Help Prevent Oral Cancer?
Your dentist will not be able to tell you if you have oral cancer by doing a normal dental exam. But he or she will be able to tell you if you have any of the signs listed above.
Furthermore, a dentist can help prevent oral cancer by keeping a close eye on anything that might look concerning. That's why it's so important for you to continue to come back every six months. It's the only way for your dentist to keep watch over potential signs of oral cancer.
What Happens If My Dentist Thinks I Have Oral Cancer?
If your dentist has any reason to believe that you have oral cancer, it's important for him or her to act quickly and decisively.
In some instances, if your dentist finds something unusual, he or she might simply ask you to come back in a week or two for another examination. But more often than not, your dentist will send you to another dental specialist right away for a second opinion if he or she suspects oral cancer. You might also have a biopsy done to confirm suspicions about oral cancer.
If you do have oral cancer, you and your dentist will work closely together to come up with a plan of action. You will be able to ask any questions you might have about oral cancer and learn more about your treatment options. However, all of this is predicated on you taking the first step towards trying to prevent oral cancer. That involves scheduling regular dental visits with your dentist and making sure you stick to them.
Make an Appointment With a Dentist Today
Do you have reason to believe you might be dealing with oral cancer? Or do you simply want to make sure you're able to prevent oral cancer at all costs by having regular checkups done?
Our experienced dental team at Stony Brook Dental Care is well equipped to take care of all your oral health needs. Contact us if you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation!