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Oral Cancer Screening From a General Dentist
A general dentist can play a critical role in your oral health. You probably think of routine wellness checkups and cavity fillings when you consider what a dentist does. However, this professional can diagnose even more concerning conditions, such as oral cancer. If you are worried about having any of these issues, you can visit your dentist to get answers.
A description of oral cancer
Cancer can grow just about anywhere in the body. It manifests by appearing as abnormal growths. The mouth is not immune to this disease. Oral cancer shows up in the form of growths or sores. These do not go away with routine treatment like with cankers or cold sores. Cancer can show up on a patient’s tongue, lips, throat, soft or hard palate or the roof of the mouth.
The sores can be red, white or speckled patches. The sores can also start to bleed or cause a loss of feeling in the mouth. Untreated, the cancer can make it difficult to chew, swallow or speak. The general dentist eventually may have to remove part of the mouth in order to get rid of the growth.
Risk factors for developing the disease
Like other types of cancer, oral cancer can grow in people who use tobacco. Cigarette smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco increase a person’s chances of getting the disease. Other factors include family history and exposure to the sun. Alcohol drinkers also stand a higher probability of getting oral cancer.
The role of a general dentist
The dentist may spot oral cancer while conducting a semiannual exam. Other patients may notice the signs themselves and inform the dentist. The general dentist will feel for lumps or abnormally large tissue in and around the person’s mouth, neck, head and face. This exam includes looking for sores or discoloration in these areas. If the dentist identifies a concerning area, a biopsy may be necessary. The dentist will take a piece of the affected area and test it for cancer.
If the general dentist finds that the sores and growths are cancerous, treatment should start promptly. The dentist will work with other health care professionals to form an appropriate plan to kill the cancer cells and restore health to the area. Radiation, surgery or chemotherapy may be the treatment of choice.
The general dentist will advise patients to avoid tobacco products and to limit the consumption of alcohol. The dentist will also encourage patients to do self-exams and to be on the lookout for possible cancerous growths. The dentist may also be more vigilant about checking for cancer in at-risk patients.
Getting help for oral cancer
Your general dentist will keep a close eye on your mouth for problematic issues. At your next exam, make sure your dentist checks for oral cancer. If you have any concerns about things you are seeing in your mouth, call the dentist’s office right away and schedule an appointment. The faster you can spot and treat cancer, the higher chance you have of recovering.
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