When most people think of oral health, they think only of their teeth. And while a bright and healthy smile is important, there are other threats to your oral health that can develop out of sight and away from your teeth. While we at Pearl Dental P.C. check for early signs of mouth cancer at each of your regular appointments, it’s important that you can recognize the warning signals so that you can bring them to your dentist’s attention right away.
Symptoms and Signs
Oral cancer refers to cancerous growths that occur anywhere in the mouth or throat, including the tongue, lips, salivary glands, larynx, pharynx, and sinuses. Since early detection is crucial to overcoming oral cancer, you should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms for longer than two weeks:
- The development of thick white, red, or speckled patches in your mouth
- Unexplained bleeding from your mouth
- Swelling, lumps, bumps, rough spots, crusts, or any other odd textures on the gums, lips, or other areas inside the mouth
- Unexplained loss of feeling, numbness, or tenderness/pain anywhere on the face, neck, or mouth
- Sores on the face, mouth, or neck that easily bleed and do not heal over two weeks
- Problems speaking, chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw
- Ear pain
- A chronic sore throat, hoarseness, or change in voice
- A feeling that something is caught in the back of your throat
- A shift in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
- Dramatic weight loss
What Causes Oral Cancer?
There is no definitive cause for oral cancer. However, there are a handful of lifestyle factors that can make someone a high-risk candidate for the disease, such as:
- Smoking: If you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes you are six times more likely than nonsmokers to get oral cancer.
- Alternative Tobacco Use: Without the smoke, tobacco is even more dangerous. Those who dip, snuff, or chew tobacco products are 50 times more likely to develop cancer in their gums, cheeks, and lining of the lips.
- Family history: Like nearly all diseases, if you have a family history of the disease, it is much more likely.
- Too much sun: Excessive exposure, particularly at a young age, raises the risk.
- Too much alcohol: Similar to smoking, oral cancer is six times more likely in drinkers than in nondrinkers.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): Some strains of HPV present etiologic risk factors for a specific type of cancer called Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC)
Despite all of these factors, over a quarter of all oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke and who only drink alcohol occasionally, so everyone must be aware of the warning signs. If you feel like you may be exhibiting symptoms of oral cancer, call Pearl Dental P.C. today and schedule a consultation.