Maintaining your dental health and hygiene is just as essential as maintaining other elements of your overall health and well-being. Regular checkups with a dentist can ensure that you’re getting the care and treatment you need. It’s ideal that oral health concerns be detected early, resulting in improved outcomes from effective treatment. One example is oral cancer, which is far easier to treat when found and treated sooner.
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Oral cancer includes cancers of the tongue, lips, sinuses, throat, floor of the mouth, cheeks, and hard and soft palate. Dentists and other oral health professionals diagnose approximately 50,000 new cases of oral cancer each year. This type of cancer is twice as common in men as it is in women and is particularly prevalent in those who smoke, use smokeless tobacco, or drink alcohol excessively. Other risk factors for oral cancer include excessive sun exposure, a family history of cancer, and exposure to certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV).
For many people, oral cancer shows up as a sore or growth in the mouth that doesn’t go away over time. Other signs include:
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to get checked by a dentist immediately.
Dental professionals conduct regular cancer screenings on patients during their routine dental exams. They recommend checkups every six months, during which they can perform a visual inspection of the mouth and throat. Dentists know what a healthy-looking mouth should look like, so they can pinpoint areas of concern. A dentist may also feel for lumps or tissue changes in the oral cavity, face, and neck during the exam.
If your dentist finds an irregularity in your mouth or surrounding area, the next step is performing a biopsy. The main types of biopsies include brush, incisional, and excisional biopsies. Some dentists use scalpels to perform biopsies, while others use lasers. The type of biopsy will depend on the dentist’s findings and level of concern.
When a biopsy comes back as a malignant tumor, treatment for oral cancer typically begins as soon as possible. Treating oral cancer is similar to treating other types of cancers, starting with the removal of the cancerous growth. You may also be referred to an oncologist for additional treatment, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, if the cancerous cells have spread to other parts of the body.
You can take steps to prevent oral cancer, including quitting the use of any tobacco products and limiting your alcohol intake. Keeping up with regular dental checkups can protect your health as well, especially if your dentist finds signs of oral cancer early. Contact The Dental Care Center to schedule an appointment today.