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Smile Zone Dental Educates Patients About Oral Cancer

As a family dental practice, Smile Zone Dental is dedicated to helping patients of all ages maintain a healthy smile. Part of keeping your mouth healthy is preventative care, which includes dental exams, cleanings, and oral cancer screenings. Our Fort Gratiot, MI dental offices are equipped to examine your mouth for any early signs of cancer growth. Generally speaking, the earlier oral cancer is detected and treated, the better the prognosis for the patient’s recovery. You should get screened for oral cancer at least once a year during your routine check-up with your dentist. If it’s been a while since your last screening, we urge you to contact us and schedule an appointment at the office nearest you.

What Is Oral Cancer? Who’s at Risk for Developing It?

Cancer is an abnormal, uncontrollable growth of cells, which can cause severe damage to surrounding healthy tissue over time. Oral cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) includes mouth, tongue, gum, lip, throat, and jaw cancer. In recent years, the number of people diagnosed with oral cancer has been on the rise. However, the exact cause for most forms of mouth or throat cancer isn’t always apparent. Many healthcare experts believe you’re more likely to develop oral cancer if:

  • You smoke or chew tobacco of any kind (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, snuff, etc.)
  • You drink heavy amounts of alcohol frequently
  • You have a history of significant sun exposure (increases the risk for lip cancer)
  • You have a personal or family history of oral cancer
  • You have HPV (human papillomavirus, which is a sexually transmitted infection)

Recognizing Common Symptoms of Oral or Mouth Cancer

The difficulty in oral cancer diagnosis is not everyone will exhibit symptoms until its progression into the later stages when it’s harder to treat. Symptoms of mouth cancer will vary by individual and severity, but these are the most common ones you and your dentist should be on the lookout for during your annual oral cancer screenings:

  • Mouth cancer sores (red and white patches or bleeding sores that don’t heal)
  • Noticeable swelling or thickening inside areas of your mouth
  • Lumps or bumps along your lips, gums, and inside your mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding or numbness/tenderness
  • Trouble swallowing, chewing, or speaking
  • Chronic hoarseness or sore throat
  • Significant, unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic ear pain or infections
  • Changes in your bite or how your dentures fit

What to Expect During Your Oral Cancer Screening Exam

You don’t need to do anything to prepare for an oral cancer screening. It’s a routine exam performed by your dentist. During this physical and oral exam, we may feel around inside your mouth and under your jaw for lumps or signs of tenderness or swelling. Using a special flashlight, we’ll likely inspect the roof of your mouth, the back of your throat, the insides of your cheeks, and your tongue, gums, and lips for mouth cancer sores and any other abnormalities. If you wear dentures, you may need to remove them during the oral exam. If we see any signs of preoral cancer, we may recommend a follow-up visit or a biopsy for additional analysis and diagnosis. Oral cancer screenings are a short part of your annual check-up and not something you should be wary about when scheduling an appointment. Even if cancerous cell growth is found, the American Dental Association (ADA) is quick to point out early diagnosis and treatment are usually in your best interest.

How Oral Cancer Screenings Help Save Our Patients’ Lives

Health experts may not always agree on everything, but many recognize the value of oral cancer screenings for early diagnosis and treatment of the disease before it progresses to later stages. If we find something unusual in your oral cancer screening, further testing or a biopsy may be necessary. Not all abnormal cell growth, mouth sores, and lesions are cancerous. While oral cancer screenings can’t detect all mouth and throat cancers, they do help save lives. Individuals at a higher risk for developing mouth cancer may want to get tested more often than the recommended annual check-up. Talk to your family dentist to determine the dental treatment most appropriate for you. Smile Zone Dental customizes treatment plans for every patient’s unique needs.

Schedule Your Next Oral Cancer Screening at Smile Zone Dental

Is it time for an oral cancer screening at our Fort Gratiot, MI office? Contact Smile Zone Dental today to schedule your next appointment. Our dental offices accept most dental plans, including Aetna®, Cigna®, BlueCross BlueShield, Humana®, MetLife, UnitedHealthcare®, and many more. We also have financing available through CareCredit®, Lending Club, and Proceed Finance for qualified patients, as well as an in-house savings program designed to help patients without dental insurance. Talk to our dentists about the importance of including oral cancer screenings in your preventative dental care!

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