You think it won’t happen to you until it does. Oral cancer is a serious disease that claims many lives each year, and it doesn’t just affect those who smoke or drink alcohol heavily. It may also surprise you to learn that your dentist can help you find it early, helping improve your chances of beating it. This April, which is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, is the perfect time to learn more about oral cancer and ways to ensure that you can catch it sooner rather than later.
How common is oral cancer?
Although not as common as breast or prostate cancer, oral cancer has a high mortality rate at 43 percent at five years after diagnosis. That means of the estimated 53,000 people who will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States alone in 2019, only 30,210 of them will likely be alive in five years. It is so deadly, in fact, that one person dies every hour of every day from oral cancer. This is because oral cancer is often found in patients during the later stages of development, when survival is much less likely.
What are the signs of oral cancer?
Oral cancer can manifest in several ways, including the following:
- A sore or irritation that persists even after two weeks.
- Red or white or speckled patches on oral tissue.
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in the mouth or lips.
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area in tissue.
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw.
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away to potentially get a biopsy.
How often should I be screened for oral cancer?
Although there is no standard for checking for oral cancer on a consistent basis, many dentists take advantage of routine checkups to provide this necessary screening every six months. At minimum, your dentist should perform it once a year. That way, you will be more likely to catch oral cancer during its early stages of development and increase your chances of overcoming it.
How does my dentist check for oral cancer?
Your dentist in Richardson starts an oral cancer screening by asking you about changes to your medical history or new or unusual symptoms. Then, they will check your lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, and the floor and roof of your mouth. To get a better view of the sides and back section of your tongue and your tonsils, they gently hold onto your tongue and move it as needed. Finally, your dentist feels your jaw and neck for lumps or abnormalities. An oral cancer screening with your dentist is a quick, painless process, but it could save your life!
In the end, this small step can have a huge impact on your health. By having regular screenings during your checkups, you can ensure that you get the treatment you need quickly, efficiently, and effectively, giving you a higher chance of surviving oral cancer. To have your oral screening, make an appointment with your dentist in Richardson today!
About the Practice
At Breckinridge Dental & Orthodontics, the experienced dentists and staff believe in the importance of prevention and early intervention. They perform oral cancer screenings at every six-month checkup to make sure their patients are healthy and get the treatment they need. To make an appointment with them, you can call (972) 248-9119 or click here.