Are you wondering whether your tooth pain can constitute a dental emergency? Tooth pain is a common experience for many people, especially those with cavities or dental diseases. If tooth pain is suddenly causing a disturbance, you may be torn between treating it as a dental emergency or just waiting for the pain to go…
Oral Cancer Screening: Early Detection for Less Invasive Treatment
Early detection of oral cancer through oral cancer screening increases the chances of successful treatment and less invasive treatment options. According to the National Institute of Dental Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), more than 50 percent of Americans survive the battle with oral cancer after five years.
Dentists usually examine the oral cavity during routine dental checkups, but patients must also pay attention to some of the warning signals and risk factors so they can alert their dentist immediately.
Signs and symptoms of oral cancer
Oral cancer can start from anywhere in the oral cavity –– the lips, tongue, throat, larynx, sinuses, salivary glands, or the pharynx. Since early detection is vital for beating this condition, patients must visit the dentist immediately for oral cancer screening if any of the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks.
- Lumpy feeling in the throat
- Swelling, sores, lumps, or thick patches around the mouth or throat
- Red or white lesions on the lips or in the mouth
- Gum swelling
- Numbness, tenderness, or pain in the mouth
- Issues with jaw or tongue movement, or difficulty chewing, talking or swallowing.
- Persistent sore throat or hoarseness
- Loose teeth
- Earache with no hearing loss
Causes of Oral Cancer
Although there is no definite cause of oral cancer, individual lifestyle choices can predispose someone to the risk of the disease. Tobacco in any form –– cigars, pipes, cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco can increase oral cancer risks. According to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, approximately 90 percent of patients diagnosed with oral cancer use tobacco. Excessive consumption of alcohol also increases the risk of the disease, and even more if the person uses tobacco as well.
Aside from tobacco and alcohol, eating habits and exposure to the sun may also cause oral cancer. Recently, there has been a surge in oral cancer cases caused by sexually transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV 16).
Oral Cancer Screening and Treatment
Oral cancer screenings conducted by the dentist are fast, painless, and vital for detecting the condition in its early phase. During a routine dental checkup, the dentist will also examine the lips and gums for any abnormalities. They may also palpate the jaw and neck region and check the gums thoroughly. This screen should be performed every six months.
If the dentist suspects oral cancer, they will suggest a biopsy of the area. If the diagnosis is positive, surgery may be required to treat the affected part, usually followed by radiation and chemotherapy.
When in doubt, prevention is the best call. Daily oral hygiene is necessary to prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease. Dental experts recommend brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and reducing sugars. By making healthier lifestyle choices –– such as reducing smoking, alcohol, and exposure to the sun –– patients can remarkably reduce their chances of developing mouth cancer.
Finally, if you are familiar with the signs and continue to visit the dentist for regular oral cancer screening, oral cancer can be detected on time and treated successfully with less invasive procedures.
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