When you think about your oral health, cavities and root canals probably come to mind. However, it’s important to know that nearly 50,000 cases of oral cancer are discovered each year in the United States.
While oral cancer is a scary thing to think about, caught early, you have a higher chance of successful treatment. In fact, nearly half of those diagnosed with oral cancer have a high survival rate. That’s why it’s important to visit your Boise dentist at Summit Dental Group for checkups regularly so they can detect any signs of oral cancer during these appointments.
Signs & Symptoms
Oral cancer can occur anywhere in your mouth, including the cheeks, tongue, or gums. While symptoms vary, it’s important to visit your dentist or doctor if you are experiencing any of the following warning signs:
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Sores, swellings, or lumps in or around your mouth or throat
- Pain, numbness, or tenderness in your mouth
- Red or white patches in your mouth or lips
- Trouble moving your tongue or jaw
- A sore throat that won’t go away
- Ear pain but no loss of hearing
Causes & Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is thought to be caused by mutations in the DNA of a cell. This, in turn, stimulates abnormal growth and cell death. While it’s not entirely clear what causes this to happen, there are a wide variety of lifestyle factors that can increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
According to the Mouth Cancer Foundation, nearly 90% of people with oral cancer use tobacco. Alcohol use is also considered another factor. The risk of developing oral cancer also increases as you get older. An unhealthy diet that lacks fruits and vegetables can also lower your immune system, making it easier to develop oral cancer. Furthermore, it is now known that the HPV 16 (human papillomavirus) can also cause oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Treatment
As we mentioned above, early detection is key to a high survival rate. During a regular checkup with your Boise dentist, we will inspect your mouth for any signs of oral cancer. These visual inspections are quick and painless and should be done every six months.
If we suspect any signs of cancer, we will refer you to a specialist for further testing and, if diagnosed, may use a combination of therapies, such as radiation or chemotherapy. These treatments are often successful in the early stages but can be more difficult to isolate and treat if the cancer has spread to other areas of your body.
Prevention is Key
The best way to prevent oral cancer is to get regular checkups with your Boise dentist, avoid using tobacco, eating a blanched diet, and being aware of any changes in your mouth, lips, and throat. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, or simply need to schedule an appointment, contact Summit Dental Group’s downtown office at (208) 345-8962 or fill out our online form. We look forward to helping you maintain a healthy, beautiful smile!