Mouth cancer symptoms can be easy to miss. The best way to protect yourself is to ask your dental professional for regular oral cancer screenings. An oral cancer screening is quick to complete, painless and cost-free.
Why Your Dental Professional Can Spot the Signs You Miss
The Oral Cancer Foundation states that dental professionals possess not only the education and training for optimal early detection, but also know the risk behaviors of the patients under their care. These risk behaviors include habits like chewing tobacco, vaping, smoking, high alcohol consumption and excessive sun exposure or the use of indoor tanning beds.
Dental professionals also have a clear understanding of the individual or family medical history of their patients, and can inquire about previous cancers and other diseases. Even if your history looks clear, a lump that looks innocuous in your bathroom mirror may be a warning sign for a trained professional.
Mouth Cancer Symptoms
The earliest symptom of mouth cancer is often a discolored (usually red or white) patch of tissue inside the mouth that does not go away. This area can be inside the cheek, on the surface or underneath the tongue, near the throat or on the lips. A spot may feel swollen or rough on the surface. It can be flat or raised, and may cause abnormal bleeding or make one or more teeth loose if it is near the tooth roots.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), other oral cancer symptoms may also include numbness, tenderness or a change in the way the teeth bite together. Mouth cancer symptoms vary among patients, making routine oral cancer screenings a very important part of regular preventive dental appointments.
Talking to Your Dental Professional
You should feel comfortable asking questions at your dental appointments. If you see something, get it checked out! Oral cancer is not always obvious or painful, and early detection is crucial as it may result in better treatment outcomes. Your dental professional is trained in the appropriate techniques for completing thorough visual examinations, and will consider all potential oral habits that can increase mouth cancer risk. Your dentist and dental hygienist should also be able to provide resources that may help you stop some of the risky behaviors associated with a higher cancer risk such as smoking and high alcohol consumption.
Early detection, risk assessment and preventive measures are the first steps in decreasing the numbers of those effected by oral cancer. Getting your regular screening is just one more reason to pay regular visits to your dentist!