When you get a routine dental examination, we aren’t just checking to see if you have a cavity or gum disease – we also look for signs of oral cancer. This is one of the dental “superpowers” we have here at Gladstone Family Dentistry. Our dentists understand what to look for in each and every mouth – and have sharpened their observational powers to be able to spot early signs of oral cancer. Because most cancers don’t become deadly if they are treated early – we think this makes our dentists pretty special!
How Can You Spot Early Warning Signs of Oral Cancer?
Here at Gladstone Family Dentistry, our dentists will always check for symptoms of oral cancer when you come in for your checkup. However, if you have any combination of the following symptoms right now – it’s a good idea to make an early appointment and get them looked at:
- Persistent mouth sores, sore throat, or pains in your mouth.
- A lump in your mouth or neck – or a cheek that seems to be thickening.
- A white or red patch in your gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of your mouth.
- Numbness in your mouth or tongue.
- It recently became difficult to swallow, chew, move your jaw, or move your tongue.
- Swollen jaws.
- Loose or painful teeth or jawbone.
- Changes in your voice that have nothing to do with puberty.
- Persistent bad breath.
- Unaccountable weight loss.
As you can see, several of these discomforts may have nothing to do with oral cancer. For example, persistent bad breath can be caused by a new medication that is drying up your saliva, by tooth decay, or a number of other issues. Whiteness in the mouth can be caused by a yeast infection called thrush, and a swollen or painful jaw may be caused by tooth grinding.
Either way, when you have the above symptoms, there is nothing wrong with moving your regular oral exam up by a few months and getting everything looked at. There’s no need to live with oral pain.
Can I Lower My Risk for Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer isn’t inevitable – even if your family has a history of head or neck cancer. There are lots of healthy ways you can lower your cancer risk. Here are just a few options:
- Quit smoking. This can be a tough process – but it is soooo worth it! Within five years of quitting, you reduce your risk of getting mouth, throat, or bladder cancer by half. That’s not the only benefit of quitting smoking – you reduce your risk of periodontal disease, heart disease, lung infection, and more. It’s pretty amazing.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eating foods that contain cancer-fighting antioxidants is an excellent way to stay healthy and to reduce your risk of cancer.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen! Don’t worry, you don’t have to apply sunscreen directly to your lips – that would taste horrible and wouldn’t last long. Instead, use a lip balm with an SPF rating and try to stay out of the sun as much as you can.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol dries out and irritates the cells in your mouth. This makes them more vulnerable to oral cancer.
- Don’t miss out on your dental exams. We know, this one is pretty obvious. Catching any disease at its earliest stages makes it easier to treat. So, be sure to come on out to your dental exams regularly so we can help you keep your mouth healthy.
Did you miss your last dental checkup or do you need to schedule your next one? Be sure to make an appointment today! It’s easy to do, and your checkup can help you keep your mouth healthy.