When it comes to oral cancer, the key is early detection. Prognosis, treatment, and survival rate all improve the earlier you find it. This is why it’s vital to visit your dentist on a regular basis and to get screened. They have the experience and knowledge to spot the early signs, so your health isn’t put at further risk.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth and most commonly involves the lips or the tongue. It can also occur in the cheek lining, the floor of the mouth, the gums, or the roof of the mouth. While it can crop up spontaneously, there are some factors that can increase your risk of getting oral cancer, specifically:
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Alcohol consumption
- Chronic irritation (from rough teeth, dentures, or fillings)
- Human Papilloma Virus
- Medications that weaken the immune system
- Poor dental and oral hygiene
Oral Cancer Symptoms
Some oral cancers begin as a white plaque or as a mouth ulcer. The most noticeable symptom is a sore, lump, or ulcer in the mouth which is usually pale-colored, but can also be dark or discolored. Usually, it is painless at first. Over time, however, you may notice a burning sensation or pain as the tumor becomes advanced. Other oral cancer signs can include:
- Chewing problems
- Pain when swallowing
- Speech difficulties
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Weight loss due to any of the above
See Your Dentist
With oral cancer, there is very high cure rate if detected and treated early. My Family Dentistry offers the most effective oral cancer screening process through a system called Vizilite. First, the mouth is rinsed with a special solution. Then, an exam is performed using a specially designed light, making suspicious tissue more easily visible. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment can make all the difference.
Contact us to schedule your oral cancer screening with Dr. Mullins at My Family Dentistry.
(This post was originally published on 5/9/12. It has since been updated.)