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What You Should Know About Oral Cancer

Auburn dentistAre you at risk of developing oral cancer? Early detection can increase your survival rate.

You know that your general dentist is an expert at helping you keep teeth and gums healthy, but did you know that she also checks for signs of oral cancer during routine visits? Most patients don’t even notice, but Auburn dentist Dr. Luminita Markham takes time during every routine check-up to look for visible changes in the soft tissues of your mouth and throat. She knows the early signs and symptoms of oral cancer and can be the first line of defense against this potentially deadly disease.

Has it been more than six months since you’ve seen a dentist? Call Maidu Dental at 530-823-8771 to make an appointment.

About Oral Cancer

This year approximately 35,720 men and 13,950 women in America will be diagnosed with oral cancer. The rate for oral cancer has remained steady in recent years, though there has been a slight increase in HPV-related cases. The good news, however, is that the five-year survival rate is 83 percent when the condition is detected and treated in its early stages. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs, however, the survival rate drops to 63 percent.

Oral cancer can affect any soft tissues in the mouth, including the tongue, lips, palate, cheek, or throat. Some signs that may indicate oral cancer can be:

  • a change is the texture of any surface in your mouth
  • a swelling or lump that doesn't go away in 14 days
  • pain or numbness in the lips or mouth
  • red or white patches in the mouth that do not heal
  • unusual bleeding or hoarseness
  • unexpected tooth mobility
  • an ulcer that doesn't heal in 14 days
  • difficulty swallowing
  • pain when chewing or speaking

What Causes Oral Cancers?

It's estimated that 75 percent of oral cancers are caused by preventable factors. This is usually habits or conditions that cause irritation in the mouth. The most well-known risk factor is tobacco products (such as cigarettes and cigars) that produce heat and smoke, which irritate the mouth and can lead to the gene mutations that cause the cancer. Smokeless tobacco is another equally dangerous irritant, and includes dip, snus, pouches, and chew tobacco. Other factors, such as poor oral hygiene, bacteria and viruses, and excessive alcohol consumption can have the same effect. Patients with gum disease may be at greater risk of developing oral cancer, due to the presence of bacteria and chronic inflammation of the gums. Even ill-fitting dentures can be a contributing factor, since they may cause ulceration and irritation in the mouth.

Silent Symptoms

One of the greatest dangers of oral cancer is the lack of any noticeable pain in the early stages. In fact, you may not see any changes at all, depending on the location of cancerous tissue. A small change—just a little bump that doesn't go away—could actually be a cancerous growth. This is especially concerning, since early detection and treatment affect your chances for survival.

This is why it’s so important to attend your six-month visits with Dr. Markham. She is trained to look for the symptoms that you might not even notice. During your preventive visits, she will visually examine the inside of your mouth and feel the outside of your head and neck. If you are concerned about any changes to your mouth, throat, or lips, ask Dr. Markham to pay special attention to those areas as she completes the check-up. Dr. Markham follows the American Dental Association’s guidelines for head and neck exams, including all cancer evaluation protocols.

What You Can Do to Prevent Oral Cancer

  • Do not smoke or use tobacco products.
  • Do not consume alcohol excessively.
  • Maintain an effective oral hygiene routine every day (brush twice, floss once).
  • See your dentist every six months for preventive and restorative care.
  • Call us for an appointment if you notice any sores, lumps, or swelling that does not go away after 14 days.

Auburn dentist Luminita Markham provides preventive and restorative care for your teeth and gums, and she also screens you for oral cancers, using effective ADA protocols. If you have any risk factors for oral cancer, maintaining a regular schedule of dental visits is one of the smartest things you can do! Call us at 530-823-8771 to make an appointment.

Learn More About Oral Cancer

Oral and Orapharyngeal Cancer Statistics

American Dental Association (ADA). Mouthhealthy.org. Oral Cancer

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