It may not be as common as tooth decay or gum disease, but oral cancer is one of the biggest potential threats to your oral and overall health. The term, oral cancer, is collective, and may describe cancer of the mouth, tongue, lips, cheeks, esophagus, tonsils, and other oral structures. As one of the more pervasive cancers, it affects over 40,000 new patients every year in the United States. Fortunately, your dentist can help you detect oral cancer early enough to improve your chances of successful treatment, if necessary. By regularly examining your oral tissues during your routine exams and cleanings, your dentist can keep an eye out for signs that might indicate oral cancer’s presence, such as lesions, ulcers, and other tissue abnormalities.
The Importance of Early Detection
Oral cancer is one of the most fatal types of cancer, with a survival rate that often hovers just over 50 percent. However, your chances of successful treatment are significantly higher if your oral cancer is detected and addressed in its earliest stages. To improve those chances, your dentist will routinely check for warning signs, as well as teach you to perform self-examinations once a month between your regular dental visits. If cancer is suspected, then your dentist may recommend that an oral pathologist perform a biopsy to more accurately diagnose your condition.