A full-service dental practice provides a broad range of services. That includes standard cleanings as well as certain oral surgeries. With a variety of dental professionals on staff, you can get many different treatments performed. However, even during a regular checkup, a dentist looks for things beyond cavities and gum disease, which includes any signs of oral cancer.
What is oral cancer?
This type of cancer involves the different parts of the mouth, including the gums, lips, tongue, roof, floor, and the inner lining of the cheeks. While having teeth and gums examined at a dental practice, a dentist carefully checks each of these areas. If the dentist spots something suspicious, they will take a small biopsy or scraping of the area. The dentist will send this to a laboratory for assessment.
Common signs and symptoms of oral cancer
A dentist at a dental practice looks for any potential issues as part of scheduled checkups. However, if someone develops any signs or symptoms, they should book an appointment with a dentist right away. The earlier this type of cancer gets treated, the better chance of a positive outcome. The following are the most common things an individual would notice with this form of cancer:
- Non-healing sore on the lips or inside the mouth
- Teeth that become loose for no apparent reason
- A reddish or white-colored patch on the inside of the mouth
- Pain that develops in one or both ears
- A noticeable lump or growth inside the mouth
- Pain or difficulty when swallowing
- Pain inside the mouth
What causes oral cancer?
With oral cancer, cells inside the mouth or on the lips mutate within their DNA. When that happens, the change sends a message to the cells to keep growing and dividing every time a healthy cell dies. Over time, the volume of abnormal cells that accumulate cause a tumor to form. In most cases, oral cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.
People need to understand that certain risk factors contribute to the development of oral cancer. For example, smoking and chewing tobacco are at the top of the list. However, other risks include excessive alcohol consumption, HPV, high levels of sun exposure to the lips, and a compromised immune system. Eliminating or correcting those things can dramatically reduce the risk of oral cancer. A patient has a good chance of beating oral cancer if identified and treated early. With different treatments available, an individual can work with their dentist to determine the right course of action.
A visit to a dental practice is vital to your health
Oral cancer is an example of why you should never skip your six-month dental checkup. Not only does a dentist at a dental practice clean your teeth and check for cavities and gum disease but other more serious problems such as this. As mentioned, if you notice anything out of the ordinary, do not hesitate to get in to see your dentist right away. Oral cancer is not something you want to take a “wait and see” approach with.
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