Did you know that over 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer each year, and one American dies every hour from the disease? One of the best ways to identify oral cancer in its early stages, when it is easiest to treat, is through oral cancer screening. At Paxton Dental Care in Paxton, MA, Dr. Scott Siemen performs annual oral cancer screenings as part of your routine dental examinations.
My family has gone to Dr. Siemen for over 10 years and I couldn’t be happier with the choice. Julie at the front desk, hygienists Suzanne, Jeanne and Katie along with Dr. Siemen are all absolutely wonderful and professional. I Highly recommend Paxton Dental if you like your teeth.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in any of your oral tissues. In its early stages, it does not typically cause any pain and may just look like a flat patch in your mouth or a sore that doesn’t heal, so you may not know that it is cancer. Oral cancer is one of the most curable cancers if it is caught early, which is why regular oral cancer screenings by a qualified professional are important for your health.
All you wanted to learn about the causes, risks, and symptoms of oral cancer
Causes and symptoms of oral cancer
Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer or cancer of the mouth cavity, is often used to describe many cancers that start in the region of the mouth. Regular visits to your dental office can help oral cancer be detected early, and you should also be aware of the causes and symptoms of this condition.
Causes: Mouth cancers form when cells on the lips or in the mouth develop changes (mutations) in their DNA.
Risks of mouth cancer include:
- Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff, among others
- Heavy alcohol use
- Excessive sun exposure to your lips
- A sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
- A weakened immune system
Signs and symptoms of mouth cancer may include:
- A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
- A white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
- Loose teeth
- A growth or lump inside your mouth
- Mouth pain
- Ear pain
- Difficult or painful swallowing
Make an appointment with your doctor or dentist if you have any persistent signs and symptoms that bother you and last more than two weeks.
When you visit your dentist for your biannual checkup, part of the procedure includes an oral cancer exam. Along with the health of your teeth and gums, your dentist inspects your tongue, lips, mouth, and throat for indications of oral cancer, so it’s vital to keep up with your regular dental exams.
Oral cancer risk factors
Oral cancer can occur in anyone. While tobacco use is a known risk factor for oral cancer, it is estimated that one in four people who get the disease have never smoked and don’t have any other lifestyle-related risk factors. However, people who have the following risk factors are at a higher risk of developing the disease:
- Consume a large amount of alcohol
- Excessive exposure to the sun on your lips
- Weakened immune system
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) carriers
How oral cancer screenings are performed
To perform an oral cancer check, we use a technology called ViziLite Plus, which has been shown to be effective at identifying both pre-cancerous and cancerous areas in the mouth. Performing the screening is quick and pain-free. We give you a solution to rinse your mouth, and then use the specialized ViziLite Plus device to view the following areas of your mouth for any suspicious spots:
- Floor of the mouth
- Inside of cheeks
- Hard palate
- Soft palate
The five-step oral cancer screening process is explained
Oral cancer screening process
Let’s see how ViziLite Technology provides a deeper level of scrutiny.
- No anesthetic is needed.
- Your mouth is rinsed with a cleansing solution.
- The overhead light is dimmed.
- ViziLite device is used to illuminate one area of the mouth at a time.
- As the dentist passes the light over oral tissues, problem areas look white.
Want to learn more about oral cancer screening?
The whole process only takes a few minutes and is an important aspect of maintaining your oral health for years to come! To schedule your regular dental check-up and oral cancer screening, call Paxton Dental Care at (508) 557-2400 today.