A healthy mouth equals a healthy life, so you should most definitely be paying attention to your dental care. Oral cancers are on the rise, with thousands of Americans being diagnosed every year. And while your dentist checks for signs of oral cancer during your twice-annual checkups, there are lifestyle choices you can make at home to help decrease your chances of getting oral cancer. Brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing daily, not using tobacco products, and reducing your alcohol intake is a good start, but in this article, we’ll dive into signs to look out for concerning oral cancer, and methods of prevention from the disease.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is commonly found in the oral cavity of your mouth walls and on your tongue. Cancer typically looks like red and white lumps (or plaques) that line the gums, tongue and other parts of the mouth. If left untreated, oral cancer can spread to other parts of your body, namely your neck and head. Again, your dentist will examine your mouth and gums thoroughly for oral cancer, which is why it is so important to get a dental cleaning every six months. But in between dental visits, there are things you can do on your own to help prevent oral cancer.
What Are Some Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?
As mentioned, limiting or virtually eliminating tobacco products and alcohol from your lifestyle will help drastically decrease your risk of oral cancer. Eighty percent of oral cancers occur in patients who smoke or chew tobacco. Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women, because, statistically, men are more likely to drink and smoke regularly.
Genetics is also a factor to consider with oral cancer. If someone in your close family has had Fanconi anemia (which affects bone marrow and leads to a decrease in red blood cells), for example, your chances of developing oral cancer are increased. As with all diseases, it’s wise to research your family members to determine if they have had oral cancer in the past.
What Are the Signs to Look for with Oral Cancer?
It’s important to give your body a self check-up on a regular basis. Concerning oral cancer, you should look inside your mouth to see if you can spot any irregularities, such as lumps or red patches. Additionally, if you experience any of the following symptoms, inform your dentist immediately:
- Numbness inside your mouth
- Loose teeth
- Sore gums
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty chewing
- Pain in your jaw
- Changes in your voice
- Weight loss
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Pain in your ear
- An ulcer in your mouth
- Spotted red or white patches inside your mouth
- Lump in your neck
- Bad breath that does not go away
- Changes in taste
How Do You Treat Oral Cancer?
If oral cancer is detected, there are options to consider to fight it. Radiation therapy shrinks the cancer cells that are large in diameter, which will give you relief from swallowing and bleeding. External beam radiation therapy is also a popular treatment for oral cancer. The beam provides an accurate dose of radiation that is administered to the affected area. The beam is also used to take precise aim at the tumor from several different angles to ensure that it does not damage any surrounding tissue.
Getting the Best Care
If you are someone who needs help diagnosing, treating, or preventing oral cancer, please contact us at Ideal Dental Solutions. We will guide you through your diagnoses and treatment, and carefully plan out and review your case. Ultimately, we at Ideal Dental Solutions will provide steps to ensure that you maintain a healthy mouth for life.