#givingtuesdayThere is nothing more frightening than the word “cancer,” but with proper screenings it can be detected early enough to ensure you get the treatment you need. Regular visits to your dentist improve the chances of catching any suspicious changes in your oral health. Here at Galleria Dentistry we work hard to bring a positive change to the world of oral cancer!

There are certain factors, some are avoidable, that increase the risk of oral cancer. Although studies show that the majority of people diagnosed with oral cancer have at least one of these factors, the rate of people diagnosed who don’t fall into any of these categories is growing. (So don’t think you can skip a cancer screening just because these factors don’t apply to you.)

Risk Factors

  • Tobacco – This includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and snuff. So tobacco is bad for for your lungs and for your mouth.
  • Alcohol – Heavy alcohol consumption (20 or more alcoholic beverages a week) can put you at risk. This risk is amplified when combined with tobacco use.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • The Sun – Prolonged sun exposure can potentially cause problems.
  • Gender – Men are usually more susceptible than women.
  • Age – People over 40 are more at risk.
  • Diet – An unhealthy diet can set you up for serious problems down the road.

When we perform an oral screening, we look for specific symptoms. If you feel like any of these apply to you, make an appointment as soon as possible, and we’ll determine if this is the precursor to oral cancer of if it is related to some other problems. The most common symptoms include:

  • A sore or irritation that doesn’t go away and may often bleed
  • A noticeable change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
  • Numbness, pain, or tenderness in mouth or lips
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking
  • Velvety red and white spots or patches anywhere within our mouth
  • Ear pain
  • Soreness or feeling like something is caught in the back of your throat

When you come in for your oral cancer screening, here’s what you can expect.

  • We will examine your mouth, throat, and around your lips for any visible signs or abnormalities.
  • If you wear full or partial dentures you will be asked to remove them so we can examine the tissue underneath.
  • Before the screening exam you’ll rinse your mouth with a special blue dye that is absorbed by unusual cells, which will make those areas more visible.
  • By shining a light in your mouth during the exam, abnormal tissue appears white, while healthy tissue appears dark.

If there are any signs of precancerous lesions, we may recommend a biopsy procedure to remove a sample of the cells. These cells will be tested in a lab to determine whether cancer cells are present or not. Once confirmed as oral cancer we can start the necessary treatment before it can progress.

Good oral hygiene habits are an important part of preventing and lowering the risk of cancer. This should include brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day, avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol consumption, and last, but definitely not least, regular dental visits.