Can My Dentist Tell Me If I Have Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is a prevalent and potentially serious health issue, and early detection is the best defense against the cancer. If the cancer is detected before it spreads to other parts of the body, it can often be successfully treated. For this reason, dentists frequently screen for oral cancer during your dental checkup.
Dentists Regularly Check for Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is a layman’s term for several different types of oral cavity and oropharynx cancers. Oral cavity cancers are those that develop in the mouth, and oropharynx cancers manifest in the throat. There are several types of both oral cavity and oropharynx cancers, such as squamous cell carcinomas, verrucous carcinomas, minor salivary gland carcinomas and lymphomas.
Dentists are able to check for these oral cavity and oropharynx cancers, and many include the screening as a standard part of their regular examination. A dentist may both feel around the jaw and throat, and can use a specialized light to visually check for signs of cancer.
Many Factors Can Lead to Oral Cancer
Smoking and tobacco use are well-documented causes of oral cancer, but they aren’t the only factors that can lead to a malignant oral cavity or oropharynx growth. Alcohol use, the human papillomavirus (HPV) and ultraviolet light can all contribute to this type of cancerous growth. Other risk factors include age, gender, poor nutrition and a couple of genetic syndromes.
While tobacco users should be especially vigilant of potential oral cancer, those who don’t use tobacco shouldn’t assume that they’re in the clear. This is a form of cancer that anyone can potentially get.
Oral Cancers in Wake County, North Carolina Are Rising
In North Carolina and Wake County, oral cancer is an especially prevalent concern. The average rate of oral cavity and pharynx cancer in the United States is 11.8 cases diagnosed annually per 100,000 people. The rate in North Carolina is 12.6 cases per 100,000 people, and rates are rising specifically in Wake County.
With higher-than-average case numbers in the region, oral cancer is something that everyone in Wake County and more broadly in North Carolina should be aware of. Over a thousand cases are diagnosed statewide each year.
Common Signs of Oral Cancer
Many oral cancers present with some common signs and symptoms. The following may indicate a cancerous presence in the oral or throat:
- Sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal
- Pain in the mouth that doesn’t go away
- Lump in the cheek
- Red or white patches on the interior of the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Numbness of the tongue
Not all cancers present with these symptoms, however. Dentists can often catch early cancerous growths that haven’t yet caused these signs to develop.
Get Screened for Oral Cancer
Because not all oral cancers present the above-noted symptoms, you should have a regular oral cavity and oropharynx cancer screening. This should be done at every dental checkup, which should be performed twice per year. Skipping dental checkups not only increases the potential for cavities and gingivitis, but it also could result in not diagnosing oral cancer as early as possible.
Get a Dentist in Raleigh
Don’t have a dentist? Schedule an initial exam with us at Williams & Daily. We’re always welcoming new patients, and we’ll be happy to perform a full dental exam and cleaning. We’ll take good care of your teeth and gums -- and, of course, check for oral cancer too.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.