Oral Cancer Screening should be part of your Complete Oral Exam
A routine part of an oral examination should be inspection not only of the teeth and gums but also of the soft tissues in and around the mouth. The dentists at Lawrence Park Dental are trained to spot signs of oral cancer – that is, cancer of the lips, gums, tongue and inside of the mouth. Dentists look for abnormal changes that are loosely called “lesions.” Many lesions are innocuous and can be easily diagnosed and named based upon their appearance alone. However, some lesions are not as easy to identify and require additional diagnostic steps, such as a biopsy. If your dentist detects a suspicious lesion, he or she may take a biopsy and refer you to a specialist. About 80 percent of oral cancer patients survive when the disease is detected early.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer refers to all cancers of the oral cavity, which includes the following:
- gums (gingiva)
- lining inside the lips and cheeks (labial mucosa and buccal mucosa)
- floor of the mouth
- roof of the mouth (palate)
- the area behind the wisdom teeth
Most oral cancers are located on the sides of the tongue, floor of the mouth and lips.
What are the most common risk factors?
- Smoking – particularly if combined with heavy alcohol consumption. About 90 percent of people with oral cancer use tobacco. However, quitting tobacco and alcohol significantly lowers the risk of developing oral cancer, even after many years of use.
- Chewing tobacco;
- Heavy alcohol consumption, particularly if combined with smoking;
- Excessive sun exposure to the lips, often through working in outdoor jobs like construction;
- Age – oral cancer is more common in people over 50;
- Gender – more men than women develop oral cancer.
- A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal.
- A lump on the lip or in the mouth or throat.
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue or lining of the mouth.
- Unusual bleeding, pain or numbness in the mouth.
- A sore throat that does not go away, or a feeling that something is caught in the throat.
- Difficulty or pain with chewing or swallowing.
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.
- A change in the voice and/or pain in the ear.
We like to take our time to get to know you at Lawrence Park Dental. A thorough initial exam is the first step in developing your goals for optimum oral heath and maintaining a confident smile for a lifetime. The initial exam consists of a full examination of your teeth, gums, facial bones and an oral cancer screening. Digital X-rays and photos will be taken for documentation and diagnostic purposes. A detailed review of your medical status will be required so we can deliver your treatment in a save and responsible manner.