According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer causes more than 8,000 deaths in the United States each year. This shocking statistic makes oral cancer seem particularly deadly, but the truth is that it causes so many deaths because it is often detected at advanced stages. Your Houston family dentist at Smile Sonrisa Dental is committed to helping you maintain great overall health as well as oral health, so we vigilantly screen you for oral cancer at each checkup. Regular screenings allow us to investigate any abnormalities we see at the earliest possible stages so that you have the best chances of a full recovery if oral cancer is diagnosed.
Oral cancer can form on the lips or any of the soft tissues inside the mouth and throat. No one knows why healthy cells in the mouth mutate into cancer cells, but researchers have identified certain risk factors for the disease. People over 40 are at an increased risk, especially those who have a history of tobacco use and excessive alcohol use. Patients who have been diagnosed with HPV16, which is a specific strain of the human papilloma virus, are also at risk of developing oral cancer. Those with a history of excessive sun exposure are also more vulnerable to cancer of the lips.
You should contact your Houston dentist if you experience any of the common signs of oral cancer, which include lumps, thickenings, and pain anywhere in the mouth or neck. Other signs include white or red patches in the soft tissues of the mouth and sores that do not heal. You may also notice difficulty chewing and swallowing, a sore throat, pain in the jaw, a loss of denture fit, or loose teeth. Generally speaking, any abnormalities in the oral cavity that do not resolve on their own within two weeks should be investigated by your Houston dentist.
In addition to checking your teeth and gums for common dental issues at your six-month checkups, we visually inspect the lips, throat, insides of the cheeks, tongue, floor of the mouth, and roof of the mouth for abnormal lesions or swellings. We also palpate the tissues inside the mouth and on the outside of the neck to check for lumps. If we spot a suspicious area we will refer the case to a specialist – Oral Surgeon.
Early detection of oral cancer is the key to survival. That is why it is important for you to see your Houston family dentist regularly for checkups. If it has been awhile since you have had an adult dental exam and cleaning, contact Smile Sonrisa Dental as soon as possible to schedule your appointment.