Like any cancer, oral cancer is the growth of malignant, abnormal cells but in or around your mouth. In general, oral cancer begins in the lip or mouth lining among squamous cells, which are thin and flat. It is also known as oropharyngeal, or oral cavity cancer. There are a number of factors that put you at risk for cancer, and a number of things you can do to prevent the condition. Here is an overview of oral cancer, how to prevent it and how dental implants can help to keep your mouth healthy and clear.
There are a number of factors that increase your risk for oral cancer. Perhaps the biggest of these is smoking or tobacco use. Whether it’s cigarettes, pipes or chewing tobacco, this is a huge risk factor. Heavy alcohol use and marijuana use are also risk factors. Those who have HPV (human papillomavirus) or who have a lot of exposure to UV light (such as from tanning) also experience increased risk.
The symptoms of oral cancer include sores on your mouth which do not heal and which bleed easily; lumps or thickening of your gums, cheek, lips or parts of your mouth; white or red patches in your mouth; sore throat or feelings of closure or lumps in your throat; difficulty when chewing, speaking, swallowing or moving your jaw; numbness in your mouth, lips or tongue; excessive dry mouth; jaw swelling which interferes with denture fitting or causes loose teeth; or unexplained changes in your voice.
Your doctor will first perform a thorough and detailed examination of your mouth, throat, lips and tongue to check for signs of the cancer. If possible signs are spotted, you may undergo a biopsy, MRI or X-Ray to confirm the diagnosis.
If you do have cancer, surgery and radiation therapy are the most common treatments. The type and degree of treatment you receive will depend largely on how advanced your cancer is (referred to as its stage) and your overall general health factors. Chemotherapy and targeted radiation therapy are often used for more advanced treatments.
Dental implants are not a treatment for cancer. Rather, they are a solution for replacing teeth that you lose to infections which could otherwise progress to cancer if left untreated. It is vital to visit your dentist on a regular basis to have any periodontal disease or other damage to your teeth taken care of. If you lose one or more teeth to disease, infection or damage, a dental implant is a permanent and sturdy replacement for those lost teeth which functions and looks completely natural.
If you have concerns about your oral health and the possibility of cancer, you should be seen by a dentist right away. For answers to these and any other dental health questions you might have, get in touch with us for more information or to schedule an appointment today.