The simple answer is, yes! Your dentist can help you protect against oral cancer during regular dental exams. Next time you go to the dentist, ask him if they screen for oral cancer. Luckily, if you go to Dr. Hortman in Palmetto Dental Associates in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, you have probably already had many oral cancer screenings. This is because screening for oral cancer is an integral part of our routine health exams that occur once per year.
First, let’s talk about cancer. This can be a loaded word that carries a heavy meaning. Although, cancer is simply the abnormal growth of cells that attack your body. Often time, your cells that fight invaders do not see cancer cells because they disguise themselves as ‘good’ or normal body cells. If you develop oral cancer here are a few symptoms you may experience:
- Weight loss
- Unexplained bleeding from the mouth
- A build-up of cells manifesting as bumps on the gums, lips, and inside of the mouth
- Sores that do not heal within 2 weeks
- Sore throat
- A feeling of a lump in the back of the throat
- Change in voice, namely hoarseness
- Shifting teeth or misfitting dentures
- Ear Pain
- White, red, or speckled patches of cells in the mouth
If you experience any of these symptoms, visit Dr. Hortman at Palmetto Dental Associates in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina right away. Additionally, it is always a good idea to visit the Palmetto Dental Associates team if you experience any abnormal symptoms for an extended period of time.
What Increases My Risk Of Developing Oral Cancer?
As you age, the change of developing cancer and other illnesses increases. Men are typically more likely to develop oral cancer than women at age 50. Additionally, people who use smokeless and smoke tobacco, have extensive sun exposure, have a history of human papillomavirus (HPV), or drink an excessive amount of alcohol have an increased risk of developing oral cancer. As with many cancers, if you have a family history of cancer, especially oral cancer, you have an increased risk of developing it. With that said, the risk factors of tobacco and alcohol use typically only apply to 75% of people.
How Can I Prevent Oral Cancer?
At Palmetto Dental Associates in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, we recommend that you eat a balanced diet, limit sun exposure, and reduce the consumption of tobacco and alcohol. Additionally, attending yearly oral health exams at Palmetto Dental Associates will help Dr. Hortman spot oral cancer early, if you develop it, and treat it right away. Lastly, you can also practice self-examinations by checking for bumps or abnormalities on your face, neck, inside your mouth, on the roof of your mouth, and around your gums. Don’t forget to feel your lymph nodes on the sides of your neck to ensure they have not swollen.
Understanding the risks of oral cancer and finding it early is crucial steps to avoiding long-term complications from oral cancer. If you have any of these symptoms or if you have not had an oral exam in a year, call Dr. Hortman at Palmetto Dental Associates in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to plan your next visit.