Oral Cancer Screening
Taking care of your mouth is important for maintaining optimal oral health. But taking care of your mouth does not just mean brushing and flossing. Regular dental visits for cleanings and exams are also key. During your exams, your mouth is checked for signs of tooth decay, damage, and infections. At Timothy H. Kindt, DDS, we also screen your mouth for oral cancer.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is a serious oral health disease. Every year, it affects approximately 40,000 Americans nationwide. Oral cancer can affect any part of your mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, palate, floor, or at the entrance of the throat. It can be fatal if not detected, and treated, in the early stages. This is one of the many reasons why regular dental visits, during which oral cancer screenings are performed, are so important. By detecting oral cancer in its earliest stages, we can help you to get the treatment you need, increasing your chances of survival.
What Are the Risk Factors?
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing oral cancer. Some of these risks cannot be avoided. Others, however, can be controlled. Risk factors for oral cancer include:
|Smoking, or using other tobacco products. Cigarettes and other tobacco products contain numerous harmful chemicals. Approximately 90% of oral cancer patients have been smokers, or used some other type of tobacco product, during their lifetime.
|Excessive alcohol use. Having the occasional drink may not affect your likelihood for developing oral cancer, but excessive drinking can. Approximately 70% to 80% of oral cancer patients were heavy drinkers at some point.
|Human papillomavirus. There are several strains of HPV. Some of these strains can increase your risk.
|Family history. If someone in your family has developed oral cancer at some point in their lives, you have a greater risk of developing it as well.
|Age. Older adults are at an increased risk than younger individuals.
Symptoms to Watch for
There are several symptoms that can accompany oral cancer. While we check for these symptoms during your regular dental exams, they do not conveniently wait for your 6-month checkup to appear. They can show up at any point. Knowing the signs can help you to take action sooner.
|White or red patches on the soft tissues of your mouth.
|Stubborn sores that refuse to heal, especially after two weeks.
|Difficulty with chewing and speaking.
|A change in your bite.
|Numbness, particularly in the jaw or chin.
Diagnosing Oral Cancer
We screen your mouth for signs of oral cancer during your regular dental exams. However, this screening is only a part of actually diagnosing oral cancer. If we do notice anything unusual in your mouth, we will then move to take a closer look. Making an accurate diagnosis involves taking X-rays, so that we can see the condition of your mouth below the gum line. Another key diagnostic tool is a soft tissue biopsy. A biopsy involves taking a portion of a growth for closer examination, and is an essential tool for diagnosing, or ruling out, oral cancer. If oral cancer is detected, you will be recommended right away for treatment.
Detecting oral cancer early is vital for successful treatment. Knowing the symptoms will enable you to take action right away. If you notice anything unusual in your mouth do not hesitate to call Timothy H. Kindt DDS at (480) 939-5818 right away.