There is a very long list of reasons to take care of your teeth and your mouth. While we’ve covered many of the ways your teeth can become injured, discolored, or otherwise damaged. What we haven’t talked about a lot are other dangers to your mouth – like oral cancer.
Fortunately, the month of April provides a good opportunity for our dentists in the Anaheim area to do so – because it just happens to be oral cancer awareness month. So what should you know?
Every year – tens of thousands of men and women across the United States get diagnosed with oral cancer. Sadly, not every single case of oral cancer is treatable. While oral cancer happens most often in either the mouth or throat – it tends to start on squamous cells – or the flat cells that cover your mouth, lips, and tongue.
So how do you avoid it?
You start by staying on top of your oral health as much as possible. That means staying away from risk-factors like tobacco, too much sun exposure, diet factors, heavy alcohol consumption, and – in some populations – betel nut chewing.
And how do you spot it?
Do you know if you could be at risk for oral cancer? Probably not. Ideally, your dentist or doctor will notice it first. That’s because by going to the dentist regularly, you give him or her the opportunity to take a good look at your mouth and spot the earliest warning signs available for issues like oral cancer. But there are some symptoms you can look out for.
The earliest visible symptoms to look out for include pale, white patches on the inside of your lips and mouth. Similar to this — you might notice a mouth or lip sore that doesn’t seem to want to heal. This could also be a sign of oral cancer.
Other symptoms you need to look out for include bleeding in your mouth – especially if you’re not being very rough (or eating anything particularly tough), painful swallowing, teeth that are loose, numbness in and around your lips and chin, or a lump in your neck. All of these symptoms can point to a potential problem in your mouth that needs to be looked at.
Remember: there’s a great chance it’s something simple. But it’s always healthier to know than to not know. But if you have any of the above symptoms – see your local family dentist or your physician, whoever you can see first.