Oral Cancer Screening
Most people think of the dentist as the person who works on your teeth. When you talk to people about their oral health, they often think only abut cavities. The fact is that oral health refers to far more than just your teeth, and your oral cavity encompasses more than just what you chew with. At Cunnington Dental, we take your oral health seriously, and we take steps to ensure that each component of your oral cavity is checked out and given the seal of approval.
Your Oral Cavity
Your oral cavity encompasses your teeth, front part of your tongue, gums, cheek lining, hard palate that is the roof of your mouth, the floor of your mouth that is under your tongue, and your pharynx which is the back part of your tongue and the back part of the roof of your mouth. When you come to Cunnington Dental for an exam, we will check all of these parts of your oral cavity to ensure that there are no signs of mouth or throat cancer.
How Do You Check for Cancer?
To check for cancer, we first do a visual inspection of your mouth and talk to you about your health history. We will also palpate your throat and jaw area to check for any lumps that shouldn’t be there. We talk to you about your health and lifestyle because, as with many diseases, there are certain factors that put you at a higher risk for these types of cancers. There are also warning signs that we can identify and some that you can see yourself if you know what to look for.
What Are the Risk Factors?
Certain activities put you at a higher risk for cancer of the mouth or throat. Smoking and drinking alcohol excessively when you are over 50 are two of the highest risk factors there are. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) has also recently been added to the list of risk factors for oral cancers. This sexually transmitted disease has been associated with cancers that form in the back of the mouth. It is also related to the increase in this type of cancer in non-smoking adults.
What Are the Warning Signs?
There are quite a few warning signs for oral cancers, and they will be readily visible to you if you know what to look for. One sign is a sore or irritation that won’t go away. These sores are not the same as the ones you get when you burn the roof of your mouth on scalding coffee. Those heal and go away.
Red or white patches can be another sign, but it can also be associated with some diseases like strep throat, so this sign should prompt a trip to Cunnington Dental. You could also experience pain, tenderness or a numb feeling in your mouth or lips. A lump or a thickening, a crust or a small eroded area could also signal the start or oral cancer.