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About 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Oral cancer can be fatal if left untreated, but if the disease is confronted as soon as it appears, patients can have a positive recovery. This is one of the reasons regular dental checkups are so important, because the cancer can be detected in an earlier stage in an oral cancer screening. It is imperative you know the signs of oral cancer so you know what to do when it’s discovered.

Could You Have Oral Cancer?

If you have a white or reddish patch inside your mouth, as well as a lump or thickening of the skin or mouth lining, there’s a chance you have oral cancer. Other symptoms involve tongue pain, loose teeth, jaw pain, difficulty chewing or swallowing, or even just a sore throat. Other red flags are if you have a sore that doesn’t heal, jaw stiffness or a feeling that something is caught in your throat.

Where Could I Notice the Signs?

The signs of oral cancer can occur anywhere within the mouth. This includes the gums, lips, tongue, roof of the mouth, floor of the mouth and inside lining of the cheeks. There is also a chance that the cancer can show up in the throat, so patients should be mindful of that as well.

Acting On the Signs

If you have symptoms that linger for two weeks, it’s time to make an appointment with us. It is helpful if you prepare for the visit by writing down all your signs, making a list of your medications and jotting down the questions you want to ask. If you have to wait a few days before you can see us try to avoid eating spicy or hard foods to avoid aggravating your symptoms. Feel free to drink nutritional beverage supplements if eating is painful.

Oral Cancer Screening

When you come in and see us, we will give you an oral cancer screening. An oral cancer screening is a visual and physical exam of the oral cavity and connected tissues. It can reassure you that there are no apparent problems, or trigger early treatment if there are. At Carolina Smile Design, we do oral cancer screenings at every hygiene appointment.

Visual Exam

The first part of the screening is the visual exam. In this part, we will observe face, neck, lips, inside of the nose and oral cavity. We will look for asymmetries, swellings, bumps, patches of color, ulcerations or other abnormalities. To look inside the nose and mouth, the doctor or dentist uses a light and mirror to see clearly, and a tongue depressor to hold down the tongue and look at the back of the mouth – much like your average physical.

Physical Exam

After or during the visual exam, we will touch your head and cheeks, around your jaw, under your chin and in your oral cavity to feel for unusual nodules or masses. Another sign of a potential problem is immobility in normally mobile tissue, and you may be asked whether physical contact there causes any discomfort. Oral cancer symptoms can be painful, but a painless swelling can still be a sign of problems elsewhere. The patient might also be asked to swallow while the throat is examined.

After Your Oral Cancer Screening

An oral cancer screening is precautionary, not diagnostic. If we find nothing abnormal during the exam, you may be asked to return at regular intervals for further screening – especially if you use tobacco, drink alcohol or practice other behaviors that increases the risk of oral cancer. If you are concerned that you have oral cancer. Make an appointment with us today!