The importance of regular dental check-ups for oral cancer prevention

The Importance of Regular Dental Check-Ups for Oral Cancer Prevention

Mar 01, 2023

Oral or mouth cancer is any cancer that affects your oral cavity, including the lips, gums, tongue, floor or roof of the mouth, inside of cheeks and throat. Research suggests that about 40,000 in Canada are diagnosed with oral cancer yearly.

Like most cancers, oral cancer progresses slowly, and people in the early stages might not even know they have it. Unfortunately, most people are diagnosed with late stages of oral cancer, which can be life-threatening and often causes severe discomfort and other symptoms.

While cancer isn’t something most of us would like to think about regularly, having routine oral cancer screening can help detect oral cancer in its early stages when treatment is often quick, easier, and cheaper. This article examines the importance of routine dental checkups and treatments for oral cancer.

The importance of early intervention

Like any cancer, mouth cancer is life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. Similarly, oral cancer is preventable (in some instances), treatable, and reversible.

In its initial stages, oral cancer shows no to minimal symptoms they cannot identify with the naked eye. The dentist uses different approaches like x-rays and fluorescent visualization tools during routine dental checkups to check for abnormal tissues or precancerous or cancerous lesions in the oral cavity. A biopsy is necessary to determine whether cancer is present or if anything suspicious is detected.

Your doctor can refer you to a specialist for specialized treatment if they identify cancer. The doctor will design a specialized treatment plan to treat your condition immediately and restore your oral health. Untreated oral cancer is very severe, often affects a patient’s overall body, and even leads to death quickly. So, it’s best if oral cancer is detected and treated early.

Apart from checking your mouth for pre-or-cancerous lesions, the dentist will also examine your mouth for potential issues like tooth decay and gum disease. If left untreated, it puts you at a greater risk of oral and other cancers and serious health conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.

Symptoms of oral cancer

When screening your mouth for oral cancer, our dentist in Knoxville, TN, looks for symptoms and signs such as:

  • Pain in one year, often without hearing loss
  • Numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth
  • A sore or lump in the mouth won’t go away
  • Difficulty swallowing or opening the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing or moving your jaw or tongue
  • Irritation or discomfort in the throat that won’t go away
  • Red or white spots or patches in the mouth, especially on the inner cheek
  • Rough spots, thickening tissues, or eroded areas in the mouth
  • A change in how teeth fit together
  • Loose or falling teeth
  • Bleeding cuts that don’t heal
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Voice hoarseness
  • Persistent gum swelling
  • Nasal hemorrhage (epistaxis)

Visit our dentist in Knoxville, TN, if you have any of these symptoms. While having these symptoms doesn’t always mean you have oral cancer, it’s best to get them checked out. They could signify another condition and will give you peace of mind.

Treatment options for oral cancer

Oral cancer treatment primarily depends on the location and severity of your condition. Other factors can include your overall health, age, and preferences. You can get one or a combination of treatments or therapies. Treatments options for oral cancer include:

  • Surgery

Your doctor can recommend surgery to remove the tumor. This surgery involves cutting away the cancerous tissues and a margin of healthy tissue around the tumor to ensure they remove all cancer cells. This surgery is effective when they detect oral cancer in its early stages.

Another surgery for oral cancer can remove cancer cells that have spread to the lymph nodes and tissues in the neck. After removing your cancer, your doctor can recommend another procedure to rebuild your mouth to restore your bite function, improve your smile, and restore your ability to speak and swallow.

  • Radiation therapy

This therapy uses high-energy beams like protons and x-rays to kill cancer cells. You can get radiation therapy after surgery or to treat cancer in its early stages. In the late stages of cancer, the therapy can help relieve symptoms and signs of cancer, like pain.

  • Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy treatment uses chemicals to kill cancerous cells. You can use the drugs alone or with other cancer treatments like radiation therapy (often used together).

  • Targeted drug therapy

This treatment uses certain drugs that alter specific aspects of cancer cells to stop their growth. You can get the therapy alone or in combination with other treatments. Cetuximab is a common type of targeted therapy for oral cancer.

  • Immunotherapy

This treatment uses your body’s immune system to fight cancerous cells. Since your body’s disease-fighting immune system may not attack your cancer (cancer cells produce specific proteins that blind your immune system cells), Immunotherapy interferes with that process.

Are you interested in Oral Cancer Screenings in Knoxville, TN?

Contact TLC Dental Care – Knoxville to speak with Dr. Terrie Cribbs for more information about oral cancer prevention and treatment.

865-247-5570 Request Appointment