Experts recommend that all adults get screened for oral cancer at least once a year. The screening is an easy and painless process that aids in early detection and could even save your life! But what exactly does your dentist check for during these screenings? What warning signs of oral cancer might you be able to notice on your own? Let’s talk about some of the symptoms that might point to the need for you to get checked for oral cancer.
Common Signs of Oral Cancer
During an oral cancer screening, your dentist will check for all of the following, which may be among the earliest signs of the disease:
- Unusual sores or swelling anywhere in or around the oral cavity
- Patches of red or white discolored tissue
- Loose teeth with no apparent dental cause
- Usually thick areas in your cheeks, tongue, or lips
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Also, be sure to mention it to your dentist if you have experienced any of the following:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty chewing or moving the tongue
- The feeling of something stuck in your throat
- Numbness anywhere in your mouth
If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms between dental appointments, you shouldn’t wait to get checked out. Schedule a screening as soon as possible. You may find out that your symptoms are due to another dental issue, or your dentist may urge you to visit your primary care provider physician for further testing.
Other Warning Signs of Oral Cancer
Sometimes, the signs and symptoms of oral cancer aren’t strictly limited to the mouth and the surrounding areas. Some patients also experience:
- Ear pain without hearing loss. Sometimes, the pain may radiate to the jaw and cheeks.
- A feeling of fullness or ringing in an ear.
- Burning or tingling sensations throughout the face.
Oftentimes, these symptoms are related to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), a condition that affects the joints that control jaw movement, rather than to oral cancer. Discussing your symptoms with your dentist will help you gain a clearer picture of what is causing the issue and enable you to seek appropriate treatment.
Protect Yourself from Oral Cancer
In many cases, oral cancer does not present obvious symptoms until it has progressed to the point where it is life-threatening. In fact, it may cause no pain or inconvenience at all when it is first developing. That is why you should always be aware of what is going on in your mouth and take note of even minor changes. Especially if you are at an increased risk of oral cancer (for example, if you smoke or are over 50 years of age), you should be diligent about noticing any signs or symptoms that may indicate a more serious problem.
When was the last time you got screened for oral cancer? If it has been more than 12 months, it is time to schedule an appointment with your dentist.
About the Author
Dr. John Carollo is a New Jersey native who has more than 30 years of experience in dentistry. He is a strong advocate of preventive care, and he routinely offers oral cancer screenings to his patients. If you would like to get screened, or you would like to learn more about Dr. Carollo and his services, contact our office at 973-377-5117.