We all know that it’s important to take care of our teeth and gums with twice daily brushing/ flossing and regular dental cleanings.
But unless something is out of the ordinary, we may ignore little things, like persistent canker sores, that we assume will go away on their own.
Sometimes these things don’t go away on their own. If it has anything to do with your mouth, your dentist is the best person to talk to.
Most dentists will offer an oral cancer screening, especially if you’re at high risk, are a smoker or chew tobacco. It’s also okay to request a screening if you notice these 5 signs of oral cancer.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer affects nearly 50,000 people a year, and 1/5 of those diagnosed die from the disease. Early detection is essential. What can seem like a toothache or an earache, may be something much more serious.
This region of the body where oral cancer appears include both the outside and inside of the lips, the inside of the cheeks, the teeth, the gums, the tongue, and the roof of the mouth. It can also occur in the back of the mouth towards the throat.
The most common oral cancers are uncontrolled growth of squamous cell carcinoma, but there are other types too.
5 Signs of Oral Cancer
Below are the five most common indicators of oral cancer.
1. Persistent Mouth Sores
Canker sores and cold sores can be common occurrences for some of us, but if they don’t go away after a couple weeks, then it could be a sign of something else. If sores are painful, feel rough or hard, or bleed, certainly get that checked out.
Also, red or white patches anywhere on the gums, tongue, tonsils or inside cheeks can be signs. These patches can be confused with strep throat, but if they don’t go away for awhile, it can be cause for a screening.
2. Lump in the Neck
Again, a lump in your neck, especially if accompanied by a sore throat, could just mean swollen lymph glands due to allergies or a virus, or it could be a sign of oral cancer.
An oral cancer screening could confirm one or the other if the lump is persistent.
3. Bad Breath
If you have bad breath that isn’t cured by frequent brushing and use of mouthwash, and you haven’t been eating more garlic and onions than usual, it could also be a sign that something is wrong.
4. Numb Spot
Sometimes oral cancer can be painful, and sometimes it can just cause numbness.
A large tumor can injure a nerve in your mouth and present as numbness. This can happen anywhere in the mouth or on the tongue.
If you’ve been ignoring the pain, and then that same spot has become numb, it’s time for an oral cancer screening.
5. Pain in Teeth or Jaw
Pain in your teeth or jaw, or even extending into your ear, can be a sign of a lot of things, from an infection to a cavity to diabetes, but it can also be a sign of oral cancer.
If the pain then turns to one or more loose teeth or your jaw swelling, then a screening is recommended. Loose teeth can indicate a tumor on the gums, which cause nearby teeth to become loose.
If persistent pain becomes so severe that it affects your ability to swallow, chew or move your jaw or tongue, an oral cancer screening is absolutely called for. When the pain inhibits your ability to eat, causing weight loss, or speak clearly, there’s something wrong and should be checked out.
When to Ask for an Oral Cancer Screening?
If any of these oral cancer symptoms or signs are present for days or weeks, don’t hesitate and see your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist may recommend tests to check for oral cancer.
As with any cancer, having your cancer diagnosed as soon as possible will allow for quicker and more effective treatment.
If you live in La Mesa, contact our office to find out more about oral health care and to schedule an appointment.