Many people clench or grind teeth occasionally, but when teeth grinding becomes excessive, it can damage teeth and lead to other oral health problems. Promptly treating teeth grinding, also called bruxism, can prevent future problems, such as the premature wearing of the teeth.Bruxism is a medical or dental condition that involves excessive clenching or grinding…
Will My Family Dentist Look for Oral Cancer?
Regular visits with a family dentist are crucial for patients of all ages. They allow family dentists to monitor the oral cavity for tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health problems. However, many may not know that a family dentist will also check for signs of oral cancer. Early detection of this condition can help prevent it from becoming life-threatening.
Checking for oral cancer
Oral cancer usually develops as a growth or persistent sore, and may affect the lips, tongue, cheek, throat, hard and soft palate or the floor of the mouth. Having a regular oral cancer screening is a crucial aspect of every dental checkup from a family dentist.
Before the exam, the family dentist will examine the patient’s medical history to determine if there is a new disease diagnosis or new medications since the last dental appointment. The medical history may also show risk factors of oral cancer such as smoking and alcohol intake. Men are more at risk of developing oral cancer than women and according to statistics, it is the sixth most common cancer affecting men.
The family dentist will examine the patient’s current wellbeing. Patients should be ready to share any concerns or questions they have. During the screening, the dentist will check both inside and outside the mouth. The examination includes the head and neck, lips, palate, cheeks, tongue, gum tissues and floor for the mouth. Additionally, patients should expect the family dentist to check for lumps, abnormal tissue changes like discoloration, and sores. If they discover anything out of the ordinary, such as a lesion, they may recommend a biopsy.
Signs of oral cancer
Some of the common signs and symptoms include:
- Abnormal bleeding in the mouth
- Lumps, rough patches or eroded areas on the gums, lips or other parts of the mouth
- Red, velvety white or spotted white-and-red patches in the mouth
- Recurrent sores on the neck, face or mouth that tend to bleed and do not disappear within a week or two
- Abnormal numbness or pain around the face, mouth or neck
- Soreness or lumpy feeling at the back of the throat
- Chronic sore throat and voice changes
- Problem chewing or swallowing, speaking or moving the tongue or jaw
- Bite changes
- Radical weight loss
- Ear pain
Points to note
It is advisable to visit a family dentist if lesions do not heal within two weeks. They may appear as red or white patches, lumps, ulcers or other growths around the oral cavity. Any changes or pain with bite or chewing, difficulty with speaking or swallowing should prompt an immediate appointment with a family dentist. There is no need to wait until the symptoms start to cause significant pain.
Patients need to understand that pain is not a reliable indicator. Therefore, one should not assume that it is not serious until it hurts. Sometimes, the pain only starts when the problem has worsened significantly.
Going for regular checkups with a family dentist is important for preventing many oral conditions. The dentist is trained and well-equipped to detect signs of oral cancer so they can provide early treatment.
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