We are open - safety is our top priority!
Posted on: January 21, 2023
Getting Screened for Oral Cancer
What is the main reason to visit your local Arlington dentist? For most people, the reason is to get a teeth cleaning and cavity check. While this may be true, did you know that dentists do more than check for cavities and clean teeth? They also screen for signs of oral cancer, which makes going to the dentist even more important.
November marks the start of Mouth Cancer Action Month. In honor of this month, you can learn more about oral cancer. It’s important to know the symptoms to look for and what you can do to reduce your chances of getting oral cancer. If you have any more questions, give us a call. We can set up an oral screening.
Understanding Oral Cancer
When you hear the term oral cancer, what comes to mind? Probably cancer inside the mouth. However, did you know that oral cancer can develop on the lips too? That’s right, oral cancer, which is sometimes referred to as mouth cancer, is cancer that can affect the gums, tongue, mouth, and lips.
This type of cancer is pretty dangerous for a number of reasons. First, it can spread very quickly in its early stages. Second, it is hard to self-diagnose oral cancer. In its early stages, oral cancer often looks like a simple mouth sore to the untrained eye.
For these reasons, it’s vital to schedule regular dental checkups. Along with cleaning and checking your teeth for cavities, your dentist checks your mouth for signs of oral cancer. This is the best way to catch oral cancer in its early stages and undergo treatment to stop it from spreading.
The Main Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Understanding the symptoms of oral cancer can be hard. That is because the symptoms of oral cancer often look like other, less serious dental issues. Once again, this is why so many people fail to catch the early signs of oral cancer without a Arlington dentist. That being said, oral cancer usually starts with slight abnormalities in the teeth, gums or mouth.
For example, oral cancer can look like nothing more than a sore or ulcer in the mouth. If the sore lasts longer than three weeks, you should have the dentist look at it. It could be an early sign of mouth cancer.
On the other hand, oral cancer can look like nothing more than white or red patches in the mouth. These patches don’t always mean that you have oral cancer because other dental problems can cause similar patches. However, it is a warning sign and something that is worth having looked at by your dentist.
The Cause of Oral Cancer
Unfortunately, the exact cause of oral cancer is unknown. Most doctors agree that genetics play a big role in the development of oral cancer. Thus, if someone in your family has had oral cancer, you are at a higher risk to get it yourself. That said, there are a few things that can increase your chances of getting oral cancer outside of genetics. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Tobacco is not good for you, end of story. Smoking increases your risk of not only lung cancer but also oral cancer. Of course, smoking tobacco products is not the only problem. Chewing tobacco can increase your risk of mouth cancer as well.
In fact, studies show that roughly two of every three cases of oral cancer are directly linked to the use of tobacco products. In short, tobacco significantly increases your risk of developing oral cancer.
Heavy Alcohol Use
Having a few drinks is not going to raise your chances of getting oral cancer, but drinking heavily could. Most studies show that if you are drinking more than 21 alcoholic drinks a week, you are at a slightly higher risk of developing oral cancer.
If you drink and use tobacco, you greatly increase your odds even further. In fact, dentists say heavy drinkers that use tobacco are six times more likely to get oral cancer than those who don’t use these substances.
Other Things to Consider
Some other factors can increase your chances of getting oral cancer. These factors are outside of your control. For example, men are more likely than women to get oral cancer. Also, people over the age of 45 have a higher risk. Thus, men over the age of 45 have a much higher chance of developing oral cancer.
Like with skin cancer, prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to oral cancer. It typically forms on the lips while you’re out in the sun. Few people protect their lips from the sun, but like the rest of your skin, your lips can get sunburned.
If you wear dentures, make sure that they fit properly. Studies show that people who have ill-fitting dentures are more likely to get oral cancer. Experts believe that this is because sliding dentures cause mouth sores that won’t heal.
How to Treat Oral Cancer
With cancer treatments, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Everyone is different and requires a personalized approach to treatment. If the cancer is caught early enough, it can be treated by simply removing it. If it has progressed, you might have to undergo other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. Your dentist is your best ally in determining the right treatment.
Let’s Stop Oral Cancer Together
There is only so much that you can do on your own to prevent oral cancer. Try to avoid using tobacco products, and don’t drink heavily. Beyond that, the best thing that you can do to combat oral cancer is to catch it early. Scheduling regular appointments with your Arlington dentist is the best way to ensure that you catch oral cancer early.
When was the last time that you saw your dentist for a cleaning and oral examination? Now is the perfect time to schedule your next appointment. Reach out to us today, and we can set up your next appointment.