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Your Dentist May Save Your Life with Early Oral Cancer Diagnosis

Most people think their dentist only treats their teeth. While teeth and gums are an important part of dental care, your dentist does more than just extract and fill teeth. Regular dental checkups help your dentist track your overall health. Many people see their dentist more than their primary health care provider, so it makes sense that your dentist can help you monitor your health and alert you to any health issues she made detect.
According to Anthon Iacopino, Director of the International Centre for Oral-Systemic Health at the University of Manitoba, there is evidence of a direct correlation between inflammation in the mouth and inflammation in the body. Studies also show the treatment of gum disease reduces inflammation, improves circulation, and even reduce the need for insulin in people with diabetes. If your dentist finds cause for concern, she will recommend you see your primary health care provider.

Oral Cancer Detection

The American Cancer Society estimates over 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Men are twice as likely as women to have this diagnosis. Once a man reaches 50 years old, his risk factor rises. If you smoke your risk factor is six times greater than a person who does not smoke. Dip (smokeless tobacco) users are 50 percent greater risk for oral cancer than someone who does not dip. If you consume a large amount of alcohol you are six times greater risk than someone who does not. Family history and Human papillomavirus (HPV) also put you at greater risk. It is important to note that 25 percent of all oral cancer victims do not fall into these categories.
The best defense is regular oral checkups. When caught early oral cancer has a very high survival rate. Oral cancer may not present any symptoms you may detect, but your dentist will detect a change in your gums, hard and soft tissues, lips, and cheeks.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Recognizing the symptoms of oral cancer will help with an early diagnosis. If you experience any of these symptoms, see your dentist immediately.

  • Lumps, bumps, rough spots, crusts, swelling, thickenings, and eroded areas inside your mouth or on your lips or gums.
  • Velvety red, white, or speckled patches in your mouth.
  • Unexplained bleeding in your mouth.
  • Pain or tenderness, loss of feeling, unexplained numbness in any area of your mouth, neck, or face.
  • Persistent sores that bleed easily and do not heal within two weeks on your neck, face or mouth.
  • Feeling as if something is caught in the back of your throat or soreness.
  • Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue, difficulty speaking or swallowing.
  • A change in your voice, a persistent sore throat, hoarseness, or ear pain.
  • A dramatic weight loss.
  • A change in the way your dentures or teeth fit together.

The best defense you have against oral cancer (besides not smoking or drinking in excess) is a regular examination by your dentist. Your dentist has the training and tools to spot any worrying changes in your mouth, gums, and surrounding tissues. If she feels you are at elevated risk, or she finds anything suspicious, she may perform a biopsy to see if the tissues are cancerous. Depending on the type of oral cancer, there are several treatment options available to your doctor.
If you have questions or concerns about oral cancer, please call or contact us today.