If we asked you to list reasons to visit the dentist, what would come to mind?
Getting your teeth cleaned. Having cavities filled. Treating gum disease.
Maybe repairing or replacing a tooth or getting some kind of cosmetic treatment like teeth whitening.
All of those are good reasons to visit either of our dentist offices in Laredo, TX.
But we want to give you another reason — oral cancer. To be more specific, our dentists conduct oral cancer screenings as part of your routine dental cleanings and exams at Davenport Dental Group.
Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, we thought we would take a moment to discuss some common symptoms of oral cancer as well as risk factors for oral cancer.
Possible Signs Of Oral Cancer
Before we describe some of these symptoms, it’s important to remember that many of these symptoms are not unique to oral cancer. Just because you have these signs, that does not mean you have oral cancer.
At the same time, these symptoms are a good reason to schedule an appointment with your doctor to find out one way or another.
Now, let’s talk about some of the things you should watch for.
Oral cancer is often painless in the early stages, so it may develop without causing you any problems at first. One clue may be red or white patches on the soft tissues inside your mouth.
You also may have an ulcer or what appears to be a canker sore. If this does not clear up within two weeks, you should make an appointment at one of our office or with your family doctor.
As with other kinds of cancer, you may feel a lump or mass developing in your mouth or in your throat.
Depending on the location of the mass, you may have difficulty swallowing or feel like you have somethings stuck in your throat. This also may make it difficult to chew food or affect how you can more your tongue or jaw.
If you notice a prolonged feeling of hoarseness or a persistent sore throat, those too could be symptoms of oral cancer.
And if you experience oral or facial pains or numbness or a persistent earache on one side of your head, then we encourage you to make an appointment as soon as you are able.
Early detection certainly helps in treatment tooth decay and gum disease, but identifying oral cancer as early as possible can be a lifesaver.
How You Can Reduce Your Risk Of Oral Cancer
The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that nearly 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year in the United States.
In a vast majority of cases, doctors can identify one or more contributing factors that can explain why someone develops oral cancer. Through years of data and research, the most common causes have been identified.
Knowing those causes can help you take steps to reduce your risk of getting this disease.
▪︎ Avoid Tobacco Products
From a health standpoint, there is no reason to use tobacco. It increases your risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay. It weakens your immune system, and it it is known to increase your risk of developing a variety of health issues, including oral cancer.
Among people 50 and older who are diagnosed with oral cancer, an estimated 75 percent of them are or have been tobacco users.
And it does matter which kind of tobacco you use. Cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and even e-cigarettes (according to some initial research) all can increase your risk of oral cancer.
▪︎ Limit or Avoid Alcohol
Next to tobacco, heavy alcohol use is the second leading cause of oral cancer in the United States. Heavy use is defined as 21 or more drinks per week for males and 14 or more drinks per week for females.
Alcohol can dry out or dehydrate the soft tissues of your mouth. This can make them more susceptible to other problems.
That’s especially true if you use alcohol and tobacco products. When your soft tissues are dry, they are more likely to absorb the chemicals found in tobacco products. This could explain why people who use both are up to 15 times more likely to develop oral cancer than people who don’t, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
Schedule A Cleaning And A Screening
We encourage all our patients to visit one of our dentist offices in Laredo, TX, a couple times each year for professional dental cleanings and exams. An oral cancer screening is another reason you may want to do this.