During routine dental examinations, your dentist may look for signs of oral cancer. Oral cancer refers to cancers in the tongue, mouth, lips, jaw, and throat. Many dental patients don’t realize the seriousness of oral cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 39,000 people will get oral cancer this year.1Consider this sobering news from the Oral Cancer Foundation:
“The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of cancers which we hear about routinely such as cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes, and endocrine system cancers such as thyroid, or skin cancer (malignant melanoma).”2
When your dentist performs an oral cancer screening during your dental examination, he/she will look for red or white spots, bleeding, lumps, difficulty swallowing, loose teeth, any color changes, and mouth sores. Is is vital to tell your dentist if your bite has changed, if you have sores that won’t heal, and prolonged hoarseness. An earache in only one ear can also be an indicator.
The existence of any of these symptoms does not mean you have oral cancer, as they can be caused by any number of other conditions. However, if your dentist does discover something unusual, he/she may order additional tests or refer you to a medical doctor for further diagnosis and treatment if necessary.
It’s probably no surprise that the main risk factor for oral cancer is tobacco use. This includes all forms, not just cigarettes. Those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol are also more likely to contract this deadly cancer. People with HPV, a sexually-transmitted virus, have a higher risk and prolonged sun exposure to lips makes lip cancer more likely. All of these previously mentioned factors are lifestyle-related and, to a great extent, preventable. People who don’t use tobacco or drink heavily are statistically far less likely to get oral cancer and a host of other health problems.
For more information about oral cancer screening, contact Expressions Dental Care at 703-757-6453. If you are looking for an experienced dentist who provides comprehensive general, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. John Han. Dr. Han has been serving the Reston area since 2015.
1“Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer,” The American Cancer Society, January 6, 2015, http://www.cancer.org/cancer/oralcavityandoropharyngealcancer/detailedguide/oral-cavity-and-oropharyngeal-cancer-key-statistics, accessed on January 9, 2015.
2“Oral Cancer Facts,” http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/, accessed on January 9, 2015
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