Can a Dentist Diagnose Oral Cancer?
When most people go to a dentist for a regular dental checkup, their worst fear is a cavity or maybe having their dental cleaned. But, for most, oral cancer is something they rarely or never think about at all. However, you need to know that your dental practitioner can and should do an oral cancer screening during each dental checkup. So, if you have not been getting an oral screening, it’s time you request one. You can also book an appointment with KC Dental in Ajax for dental checkups, restorations, and oral cancer screenings in Ajax, ON.
Although the thought of an oral cancer screening sounds frightening, it will help detect oral cancer early, improving your chances of a better outcome.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer or cancer of the mouth belongs to a group of cancers, the head and neck cancers, and develops in the oral and throat tissues. Oral cancer can affect the following parts of the mouth; the lips, tongue, roof of your mouth, gums, cheeks, and tissues under your tongue. It typically manifests as a sore or growth inside the oral cavity that does not resolve.
Oral cancer development begins when cells in the oral tissues develop DNA mutations. The DNA of a cell is responsible for controlling all the cell’s activity. When the mutation occurs, the cells grow uncontrollably and divide abnormally, killing healthy cells. The abnormal oral cancer cells accumulate to form a tumour that may spread to other parts of the mouth or other body parts like the neck or head.
Manifestation of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer starts to manifest at early stages and is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- A chronic sore throat
- Mouth swelling
- Eroded/crusted spots on the gums, lips, or inside your mouth
- Unexplained oral bleeding
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing or chewing
- Sudden weight loss
- Ear pain
- Speckled, white, or red patches in the oral cavity
- Pain or numbness when biting down food
- Difficulty moving your tongue or jaw
It is important to note that other diseases may manifest, like mouth cancer symptoms; hence it is important to visit general dentistry near you in Ajax, ON, for further tests and examination.
Risk Factors for Mouth Cancer Development
Although the major cause of cell mutation that leads to oral cancer is unknown, health experts have identified factors that increase the chances of mouth cancer. They include:
- Smoking – Cigar, cigarette, and pipe smokers have a 60% chance of developing oral cancers than those non-smokers.
- Excessive alcohol consumption – Drinkers, especially those who use tobacco and alcohol, are about six times more likely to get oral cancer than non-drinkers.
- Use of smokeless tobacco – Users of chewing tobacco products, dip, or snuff are more likely to develop gum, lip, or cheek cancer than non-users.
- Gender – Men have a 50 % higher chance of getting mouth cancer than women.
Studies have also established a link between poor diet and oral cancer. For example, not eating adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables increases the risk, and so does age.
How Dentists Diagnose Mouth Cancer
Our dentist in Ajax, ON, will perform an oral cancer screening test during a dental checkup and examination. Dentists know what a healthy oral cavity looks like and thus can spot any sign of oral cancer. According to dental experts, one should get an oral screening yearly as soon as they turn 18 and sooner if they start having sex or smoking.
During the dental checkup, your practitioner will feel for both lumps and irregular tissue changes on your neck, oral cavity, head, and face. The expert will also make an observation for any discoloured tissue or sores. A biopsy will be needed to confirm the diagnosis if a suspicious-looking swelling or abnormality is detected. There are various biopsy types, and the type chosen will depend if a whole area or a piece of tissue is needed for the examination. The types include brush biopsy, incisional & excisional biopsy, and scalpel biopsy.
Despite scientists not knowing the exact causative agent for mouth cancer, they say things like healthy habits and lifestyles, refraining from alcohol and tobacco products, and eating a healthy diet can help prevent oral cancer.