Written By Kassandra Foreman / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
That once-a-year visit to your dentist for a check-up can do more than just keep your teeth clean: it also alerts you to any signs of serious health concerns like oral cancer. As sixth on the list of the 10 most common forms of cancer, early detection can result in removal in a pre-cancer stage.
“Oral cancer is often detected by examining the inside of the mouth and lips during a routine visit to the dentist,” says Kalu Ogbureke, UT Health School of Dentistry, and professor for oral and maxillofacial/head and neck pathology. “And at the precancer stage we are able to do surgery to remove it.”
Oral cancer symptoms
While mouth ulcers can be fairly common, any that do not heal on their own or that become painful should be checked. Symptoms to watch for include any growth within the mouth that is not healing after a week or two, which can be present on any surface including the cheeks, tongue, and even the tonsils.
Other symptoms can include a feeling that there is something sitting in the throat, an extended sore throat, pain or numb lips or tongue. There may be voice changes that cause concern as well as sudden weight loss with no explanation. Difficulty chewing, talking, or moving the tongue or jaw, as well as problems when swallowing, are also signs that cancer may be a concern.
Regular cold sores are not a signal for worry, but if they change or become more painful over time it may be necessary to have a biopsy to be sure. A dentist is trained and can tell the difference between a cold sore and a cancerous formation.
Reducing oral cancer risks
To reduce the risk of developing oral cancer there are some things to avoid. Smoking and using any tobacco products increase the risk of cancer. Excessive exposure to the sun should be avoided and sunscreen should be used even on the lips. HPV - the most common sexually transmitted infection - is also a common cancer risk factor.
The good news is that oral cancers are treatable when caught early, and can often be entirely removed before they spread. “The key to successful treatment of oral cancer is early diagnoses, so I suggest scheduling your yearly dental exam or seeing a dentist if you experience any of the common symptoms,” Ogbureke added.
Seeking regular dental check-ups is not just for the health of your teeth, though they do help to keep tartar and cavities at bay. They also help monitor for signs of oral cancer and can provide early detection and intervention.
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Kassandra Foreman has been writing freelance for five years now and enjoys learning about new things to write about. When not writing she teaches yoga and meditation with a focus on health and fitness.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.