Welcome to November, the month of gratitude. While November comes with joyful festivities, like harvest and thanksgiving, orthodontists use this month to also bring awareness to mouth cancer. An integral part of gratitude is being actively responsible, which includes constantly educating oneself on ways in which to keep the mind, body and soul healthy, because prevention is better than cure.
Mouth cancer comprises various kinds of tumors affecting the mouth area such as: lips, salivary glands, tongue, gums, palate and inside of the cheeks. Mouth cancer can grow and spread rapidly, hence it is important that you visit your Orthodontist and General Dentist for screenings, as they are specially trained to immediately spot symptoms.
There are a number of factors that trigger mouth cancer, most common causes being the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. At this juncture, you’re probably wondering what symptoms you should be looking out for.
Before we list the general symptoms, it is important to note that during the early stages of mouth cancer you may not experience any pain, hence paying attention to the symptoms is crucial as early detection is key to successful treatment.
The most common symptoms include:
- Numbness in the mouth or lips
- Red or white patches
- Ulcers that don’t heal within a 2-3 week period
- Pain or discomfort in the mouth
- Lumps and swellings of no obvious cause in the mouth or neck
- Bleeding from the mouth or throat
- Red or white patches inside the mouth
- Loose teeth
- Difficulty or pain with swallowing, chewing or moving the jaw
- Persistent hoarseness or changes to the voice
- Persistent coughing or the feeling that something is ‘stuck’ in the throat
- Numbness or tingling of the lips or tongue
If you notice any skin patches, redness, growths or discomfort, in your mouth area, which persists over a 2 week period, you should immediately visit your General Dentist or Orthodontist.
While it is important to know the symptoms to look out for, it is far more important to learn how to prevent mouth cancer, that way you and your loved ones can continue giving gratitude for a cancer-free body.
The most common methods of mouth cancer prevention include: cutting down or completely avoiding alcohol consumption, smoking and getting an HPV vaccine while at the age of 11 – 12 yrs. old. Practicing good oral hygiene, getting your regular dental checkups, practicing good eating habits and the above listed prevention methods, should keep you healthy and mouth cancer free.
Visit us for your orthodontic needs; you get a free screening during your consultation process. You can also take advantage of the resources below, if you have any additional questions.
Mouth Cancer Awareness Resources:
American Dental Association (ADA) https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oral-cancer
Mouth Cancer Foundation: http://mouthcancerfoundation.org/patients-guide/symptoms