Successful treatment, as with any cancer, is the key to a successful cure.

What many people may not know is that one the screenings preformed by Dentists and Registered Dental Hygienists is for Oral Cancer.

Another cancer that is discovered from seeing your dentist and hygienist is Oropharyngeal Cancer. Many of the diseases we can suffer from show up in it’s earliest stages show up in the oral cavity. Of those Oral Cancer and Oropharyngeal Cancer is something that can be discovered at a very early stage of disease.

Many of the symptoms that people can have at the early stages of Oral or Oropharyngeal Cancer can seem as simple as:

  • Sores in the mouth or on the lip that does not heal; this is the most common symptom
  • Red or white patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
  • Lump on the lip, mouth, neck, or throat or a feeling of thickening in the cheek
  • Persistent sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • Numbness of the mouth or tongue
  • Pain or bleeding in the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the jaws or tongue
  • Ear and/or jaw pain
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Changes in speech
  • Loosening of teeth or toothache
  • Dentures that no longer fit
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite, especially when prolonged; this may happen during the later stages of the disease

We can have bad habits that can increase our risk for these cancers.

Some of those bad habits can include:

  • Use of tobacco whether you are smoking, chewing or using a pipe. Second hand smoke has also been shown to increase the risk of Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer.
  • Frequent and heavy use of alcohol
  • Combining smoking and alcohol greatly increases your risk of developing these cancers. This does also include use of Marijuana.
  • Prolonged sun exposure
  • Contracting Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Poor Oral Hygiene
  • Poor Diet and Nutrition

Some other risk factors that you cannot decrease or eliminate are:

  • Being male
  • Having fair skin
  • Although these cancers can appear in any age your risk does increase over the age of 45.
  • Having a weakened immune system.

The great news is that oral cancer can be very curable if caught early enough.

Sadly, though for most people it is caught in the later stages of growth. Mostly because people do not see your Dentist or Dental Hygienist for regular cleanings and exams.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018 over 51,000 people in the US will develop Oral or Oropharyngeal Cancer. Of those it is estimated that more than 10,000 people will die from these cancers.

There are several different options for treatment as with all types of Cancers. These may include radiation, chemotherapy, surgery (which can include laryngectomy, neck dissection and glossectomy) or targeted drug therapy.

If your Dentist and dental hygienist find an area that is suspicious they will refer you to an Oral Surgeon who may do further testing that could include a biopsy of any suspicious area. If the test comes back positive they may refer you to one of the following specialist: Oncologist, Radiation Oncologist or Otolaryngologist.

The most important thing to remember for the best outcome is that with any type of cancer early detection is key.

Schedule an appointment with your dental office for not only your regular cleaning, exam and oral cancer screening. See you soon!

David Gianino

About David Gianino

Dr Gianino is a graduate of Loyola University of Chicago School of Dental Surgery and has been in practice since 1991. Dr. Gianino practices comprehensive dental care that places the patient at the center of attention and care.

Leave a Reply