A healthy mouth is about more than a shiny smile and fresh breath. Even the best oral health care habits and the most attractive of smiles can be hiding a hidden threat to oral, and overall, wellness. Oral cancer affects many dental patients each year. While it can be treated, like any cancer treatment the key is to discover it early, before it has time to spread to other areas of the body.

One of the best ways to screen for oral cancer is during your twice yearly dental checkups. While occasionally patients with oral cancer will be able to notice changes in the mouth that cause them concern, most frequently the early stages of cancer reveal symptoms that can only be detected by a trained professional who knows what to look for.

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However, if you have any of the following symptoms you should make an appointment with your dentist or physician:

  • A mouth sore that doesn’t get better
  • A patch on the inside of the mouth that is white or red in color or that becomes thick
  • Teeth that become loose
  • Difficulty or pain when you chew and swallow
  • A sore throat that doesn’t get better
  • Stiffness or pain in the jaw
  • An “off” feeling in the throat, like something is stuck.

At your appointment, your dentist or physician will examine your mouth and talk to you about your symptoms. He or she will also try to rule out other causes for the symptoms, such as allergies, infection or gum disease. If other infections are determined not to be the cause, a small sample of cells will be tested. Treatment and next steps will vary depending on the results of those tests.

Oral cancer is a serious condition that should be given the proper time for screening. Dr. Dean Dietrich of Pleasant Dental® has been talking to his patients in the Dolton, Illinois area about the ways to help prevent oral cancer for many years. For example, oral cancer risks increase with the use of smoking or chewing tobacco. If you currently use tobacco products, consider stopping in order to preserve your oral, and overall, health and wellness. Other risk factors include drinking alcohol frequently and having a great deal of sun exposure on your lips.

If you believe that you could be at risk for oral cancer, call the Pleasant Dental® practice today to schedule an appointment.

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