Oral cancer, which can be found anywhere in the mouth or on the lips, is on the rise among Americans. As is the case with all cancers, early detection of oral cancer can truly be a life-saving measure. According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, 80 to 90 percent of oral cancers can be treated if they are found early, but unfortunately, the majority of cases or not, which has resulted in a five-year survival rate around 45 percent.
Dental professionals can help patients in the fight against oral cancer. In particular, a periodontist has significant expertise and training in detecting abnormalities of the soft tissues of the teeth, and that knowledge is advantageous when it comes to identifying signs of oral cancer.
When a periodontist examines you for signs of oral cancer, he or she will be looking for abnormalities in the mucosa, which is the layer of specialized skin that coats the inside of the mouth. Healthy mucosa is coral pink in color and smooth in texture.
A periodontist has significant expertise and training in detecting abnormalities of the soft tissues of the teeth, and that knowledge is advantageous when it comes to identifying signs of oral cancer.
In an oral cancer screening, the periodontist will look at the gums, tongue, palate, lips and inner cheeks for potentially pathological symptoms including the following:
• Red (erythroplasia) or white (leukoplasia) patches in the mouth
• A lingering sore that may also bleed readily
• Lumps or thick spots in the mucosa or gums
Other symptoms, such as difficulty chewing or swallowing, unexplained oral/facial pain or a perpetual sore throat may also suggest oral cancer, although these problems can be associated with other oral health conditions, as well.
If you have an unusual growth, don’t assume that it’s harmless just because it’s painless. In fact, oral cancers often aren’t associated with any pain or discomfort.
Patients who have certain risk factors for oral cancer, like those who use tobacco or alcohol or have a family history of the disease, should be extra vigilant about getting checked regularly for signs of oral cancer. Contact our periodontal specialist, Dr. Beth Tomlin to discuss any concerns you have about symptoms that may indicate oral cancer. Call 214-949-1836 to schedule an appointment.