Oral Cancer: First Signs And How Your Dentist Can Help

The thought of having cancer can be a terrifying thought, but one that should not be put off. If you suspect oral cancer, or are dealing with otherwise suspicious symptoms, it's important you get examined immediately. While not all suspicious lesions and symptoms are cancerous, knowing the first signs of cancer can help to ease your fears and get you seen by the right professionals sooner.

First Signs of Oral Cancer

While many dental symptoms can be signs of general irritation or injury, symptoms that last longer than two weeks should be considered serious and be examined by your dentist immediately.

If you've noticed white or red lesions in your mouth, or if it feels as if the tissue within your mouth is thickening, these could be the first signs of oral cancer. Other common symptoms, which may be misinterpreted at first, include trouble swallowing, pain when talking or chewing, numbness or swelling of any oral tissues, and stiffness when moving the jaw or tongue. 

How Your Dentist Can Help

When it comes to oral cancer, your dentist is usually the first medical professional to suspect a problem and refer you out for further testing and treatment.

Dentists routinely perform oral cancer screenings on their patients, especially those patients with increased risk. If you suspect oral cancer or are just curious about a new lesion or symptom, your dentist can help to detect and diagnose the issue, and if a problem is suspected, can biopsy the tissue and have it sent out for investigation. These first steps are the most important ones, as they'll help to determine the severity of the problem, as well as which treatment options will be best.  

What Treatment Options are Available

If the biopsy your dentist ordered showed signs of cancer, your dentist will immediately refer you out to a oncologist who can then help you to understand and assess all possible treatment options.

The care you receive will likely come from a number of sources in combination with your dentist and oncologist, including radiologists,  ear, nose, and throat specialists, rehabilitation specialists, and dieticians. The options available will depend on the stage of cancer (stages 0 – IV) and can include any number of treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

When caught early, oral cancer can be treated easily and with minimal health repercussion. To learn more about first signs and when to seek professional help, consult with your dentist