Cancer. The word alone probably brings a nervous shiver down your spine. You’ve probably known people in your life who have gotten sick with cancer. It’s an ugly disease and has laid a hand in a majority of people’s lives. Oral cancer is one of the more scary ones that people can be diagnosed with. Oral cancer isn’t as well known as other types of cancer and there is still so much research that has to be done. In addition, if you are diagnosed with oral cancer you can face a number of operations that can leave you speaking differently or missing extremities. We don’t want to make you nervous, but by practicing dental care and knowing what to look for with oral cancer screenings, you’ll be able to avoid contracting this painful disease. Keep in mind that even though smoking is a main cause of oral cancer and can harm your dental care that doesn’t mean that’s the only way you can be diagnosed with oral cancer. By knowing what to look for in oral cancer and having a recommendation from a dental care expert, you’ll be able to know the signs of oral cancer and how you can prevent it.
What am I Looking For?
Oral cancer is 5 percent of all cancers, but has a 50 percent five-year survival rate. The most common area in the mouth where we see cancer is the tongue, mostly the side of the tongue, toward the back, and also underneath the tongue. Other areas oral cancer is found is on the lips, cheeks, palate, sinuses, throat, and floor of the mouth. Oral cancer often presents itself as an indurated mass or ulcer and is usually red and white in appearance. Other common symptoms are persistent sores, swelling, unexplained numbness, dramatic weight loss, and unexplained bleeding in the mouth.
We recommend cleaning your tongue one to two times daily to allow for a complete inspection of the tongue. If you see something that appears on one side but not the other, please let your dentist know right away. Cleaning the tongue also allows for the removal of debris, a clean taste, and fresh breath. Throughout the day, tissue cells in the mouth turn over and slough onto the tongue giving it a white appearance. Removal of these cells will, in turn, remove bacteria and give your tongue the pink appearance it once had.
Tongue scrapers can be purchased at the drug store or given to you by your dentist. Placing a tongue scraper toward the back and pushing it forward toward the tip will effectively remove all debris. Brushing your tongue simply brushes the bacteria all around the surface but does not remove the bacteria properly. Remember to wash your tongue scraper and store it dry in your drawer.
At Coventry Dental Care, we perform an oral cancer screening at every hygiene appointment and during comprehensive exam appointments. If you suspect any changes orally between appointments, feel free to contact us at to get checked out.