When people go to the dentist for a checkup, the worst things on people’s minds are getting a deep cleaning or maybe a cavity. However, what people don’t usually think about is oral cancer. It is important that you have your dentist screen you for potential oral cancer. In today’s blog, we will be going over the importance of oral cancer screenings at the dentist.
The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings at the Dentist
Did you know that the survival rate of individuals with oral cancer is about 60%? The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in the US for 2022 are about 54,000 cases! Fortunately, with early detection of oral cancer, you can prevent it from further developing. Whether you’re noticing something is off or not, it’s essential that you get a regular screening with your dentist.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the following areas of the mouth:
- Under the tongue
- Inside the cheeks
- The roof of the mouth
Oral cancers typically look like a sore inside the mouth that does not go away.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of oral cancer can start to appear during the early stage of the disease. The most commons symptom seen in patients with oral cancer include:
- A painful sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal within two weeks
- Pain on the mouth that does not go away
Other common symptoms that could be indicative of oral cancer include:
- Swelling in the mouth
- Numbness/pain when you bite
- Eroded spots on the inside of the mouth, gums, or lips
- Red, white, or speckled patches in the mouth
- Difficulty chewing, speaking, or swallowing
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Chronic sore throat
- Dramatic weight loss
- Ear pain
While the symptoms mentioned above aren’t always correlated to oral cancer, it’s always best to check with your dentist as soon as possible. Like the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Causes of Oral Cancer
While there is no direct cause for oral cancer, doctors have discovered certain risk factors that could increase your chances of developing the disease. These risk factors include:
- Tobacco uses (smoking cigarettes, pipes, chewing tobacco, etc.)
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Constant sun exposure
- The Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Having a weakened immune system
How Can Oral Cancer be Prevented?
While there’s no guaranteed way to completely prevent oral cancer, there are some things you can do to greatly reduce the chances of developing it. This includes eating a healthy, balanced diet, refraining from smoking or using tobacco products, limiting your alcohol consumption, and limiting your sun exposure. Remember, living an overall healthy lifestyle will help promote an overall healthier you!
How Dentists Can Help with Early Detection
Your dentist can help detect early signs of oral cancer by conducting regular oral screening exams during your regular checkups. They will also ask about any symptoms you may be experiencing. During the exam, your dentist will check for lumps, sores, and any irregularities in your tissue. If any irregularities are detected, a biopsy will be needed to make an official diagnosis.
What Happens if Something is Detected?
If something suspicious is detected, your dentist will perform a biopsy and send it off to the lab for testing. Once it’s sent off, a follow-up report from a pathologist will state whether any cancerous cells were found or not. If cancerous cells are found, your doctor will carry out additional tests to determine the stage the cancer is at and provide you with a course of treatment.
The Importance of Regular Screenings at the Dentist
If the oral cancer is caught during the early stages, it can very easily be successfully treated and has a high survival rate. This is why you should have regular screenings with your dentist. Dentists are able to successfully detect the early signs of oral cancer in around 85% of the cases. It is recommended to get an oral cancer screening every three years for adults over 20 and annually for adults over 40. So, next time you visit your dentist, remember to ask about oral cancer screening exams. If you’re concerned about your dental health or want to schedule an oral cancer screening exam to ensure your dental health is in tip-top condition, the friendly team at Dental Arts San Diego is more than happy to help! Give us a call at (619) 444-1001, or click here to schedule an appointment. We are located at 707 Arnele Avenue, El Cajon, CA 92020.