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What is Oral Cancer?

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Nearly 54,000 people in America will receive a diagnosis for oral cancer in 2022. Of them, barely more than half will still be living in five years.

In this article, we’ll explain what oral cancer is and what causes it, how to identify it, and how to treat and prevent it.

If you notice anything different or abnormal in your mouth, give our dental office at Atlas Walk Dental & Orthodontics a call to schedule an appointment with a dentist in Gainesville, VA.

What Is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer (aka mouth cancer) includes cancers in the back of the throat as well as in the mouth. You can develop oral cancers on the tongue, under the tongue, on gum tissues and tissues lining the mouth, and in the area of the rear of the throat.

In terms of cancers, oral cancers and mouth cancers are especially dangerous, as they’re difficult to detect during their earlier stages without a dentist’s examination. Without treatment, oral cancers can quickly spread to other parts of the body.

Mouth cancers are a concern that dentists and dental hygienists search for during routine dental exams. This makes it all the more important to schedule regular dental exams and cleanings with your Gainesville, VA dentist.

It’s the perfect time to look at all the ways you can identify, treat, and prevent oral cancers, along with how we at Atlas Walk Dental & Orthodontics can help you do that.

Keep your smile and mouth healthy. Set up an appointment with your Gainesville, VA dentist today.

Mouth Cancer Symptoms

Although mouth cancer is difficult to detect in its early stages without a dentist’s examination, there are still several signs and symptoms of mouth cancer you can look out for between visits.

Watch out for:

  • Sores and ulcers that don’t heal within a few weeks
  • Patches of red or white in the mouth
  • Swelling or lumps in the mouth, neck, or head area
  • Patches or growths of scar-like tissue

A useful general rule for your oral health is that, if you have any doubts about something involving your mouth, have your dentist check it out asap. Your dentist is an invaluable member of your healthcare team overall and is there to help.

Causes of Oral Cancer

While age and certain other factors can increase oral cancer risk, as much as 90 percent of all mouth cancers are due to lifestyle factors. Smoking raises your risk of mouth cancer developing by as much as 10 times. Also raising the risk of oral cancer developing is heavy alcohol consumption. In fact, when smoking is combined with heavy drinking of alcohol, the risk of oral cancer developing triples. Smokeless tobacco and chewing tobacco can also be extremely dangerous to your oral health. Because of their mixture of toxic ingredients, they can significantly raise your risk of mouth cancer.

Beyond these lifestyle factors, a poor diet lacking in vitamins and minerals can increase your mouth cancer risk, as can exposure to the sun.

How Oral Cancer Is Diagnosed

It is vital to detect mouth cancer early, as it can spread quickly if not caught and treated. The number one reason for the high death rate from oral cancer is not a failure of treatment but a failure to detect it early enough to treat it properly and effectively. Many dentists in Gainesville, VA do mouth cancer screenings as a part of a normal dental exam.

A mouth cancer screening is painless and only takes a short time. Your dentist will just study your mouth, neck, lips, and face for signs or symptoms of mouth cancer. Your dentist may also feel around your face, jawline, and neck for lumps and examine the inside of your cheeks and lips.

Treating Oral and Mouth Cancers

Oral cancer may sound frightening, but it is quite treatable when discovered early. If your dentist notices any abnormality he or she thinks might lead to a mouth cancer diagnosis, your dentist could refer you to a specialist. Oral cancer treatments typically involve a whole team of specialists, from your dentist to an oncologist to an oral or maxillofacial surgeon. Upon early detection, mouth cancers are generally treated with radiation therapy or surgery.

If oral cancer is further along at the time of diagnosis, your dentist may use a combination of different treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Also commonly employed as a treatment option for mouth cancer is targeted therapy, a new kind of cancer treatment in which substances like medicines are used to identify the cancerous cells and attack them with precision.

Which treatment your dentist uses for your oral cancer is based on your general health, the location in your mouth where the cancer first started, the type and size of the tumor (if there is one), and whether or not it has spread.

Preventing Oral and Mouth Cancers

To prevent mouth cancer, have a healthy lifestyle, and get routine dental exams to help detect mouth cancer as early as possible. Also, eat a balanced diet full of foods rich in minerals, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. Not only does that help your overall health, but it also helps your oral health.

Oral cancers can affect anyone, which is why it’s vital to know what to watch out for between dental visits. Keep your smile and mouth healthy. Set up an appointment with a Gainesville, VA dentist today.

You can prevent oral cancer. And, if you detect it early enough, you can treat it successfully. The best ways to protect yourself from oral cancer are to avoid smoking, limit alcohol, eat a balanced diet, and see your dentist for regular checkups and your dental hygienist for regular cleanings.

Schedule your cleaning and exam with Atlas Walk Dental & Orthodontics in Gainesville, VA today!

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.