How much do you know about oral cancer? The initial signs of this disease may be mistaken for other issues, like a toothache or a cold. Understanding the risk factors and symptoms are important. Oral cancer can affect chewing, swallowing, breathing, and even speech. The team at Magnolia Dental Care wants you to know the truth about oral cancer.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer can occur on the lips, cheeks, tongue, hard and soft palate, the floor of the mouth, sinuses, and throat. It starts in the flat, thin (squamous) cells lining your mouth and lips. Mutations in the DNA sequence causes cancer cells to grow continuously in conditions where a normal cell would die.
As a result, the buildup of abnormal cells can form a tumor. Undetected, cancer may spread throughout the mouth, neck, head, and other body areas. The reasons for the cell mutations are not clear, but there are several factors associated with increased oral cancer risk.
The significant risk factors for oral cancer are smoking or use of smokeless tobacco products and heavy alcohol consumption. People with weakened immune systems or those who’ve contracted HPV are at a higher risk as well. Too much exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning beds is also a factor. In addition, a previous cancer diagnosis, being over 40 years old, and having poor oral hygiene practices increases the risk of developing the disease.
- Numbness, tenderness, or pain in the mouth, face, or neck without explanation
- Persistent sore throat, hoarseness, or voice changes
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Lip or mouth sores not healing
- White or red patches in the mouth
- Pain or difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Swelling or pain in the jaw
- Permanent teeth become loose
- Thickening, lumps, or rough areas in the mouth, face, or neck
- Mouth hurts constantly
- Persistent bad breath
- Changes to the way teeth or dentures close together
Reducing the Risk
There are several actions you can take to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. Don’t use tobacco products. If you drink, limit your alcohol intake. Eat healthier meals by increasing your servings of vegetables and fruits. Avoid excessive exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning beds. Protect yourself from HPV. Also, have dental exams at the intervals recommended by your dentist.
If you have symptoms that have lasted over two weeks, see us for an evaluation. Early detection of oral cancer is the best way to get favorable treatment outcomes. When you have regular dental exams, we check for signs of oral cancer. When was your last dental visit? If you live in Seattle, Washington, or the surrounding areas, contact our office to schedule an appointment.