What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer, otherwise known as mouth cancer, is cancer that forms on the lips, tongue, gums, inner cheek lining, under your tongue, or roof of your mouth. At your next dental check-up with the best dentist in downtown Chicago, ask for a cancer screening so that you can better understand your risks of developing oral cancer. Specialized mouth cancer screenings are designed to help identify the early signs of the illness so that we can implement treatment methods before cancer develops into an advanced stage.

More than your primary care provider, your dentist is best equipped to identify signs of oral cancer. During your examination, your dentist will look for mouth sores and any discoloration inside your mouth. They will also check the area around your mouth and neck for lumps or other abnormalities. If something out of character is identified, a sample might be taken and sent to a lab for further testing. Be sure to read on for more information about the risk factors for oral cancer and what is looked for in a cancer screening.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

Though anyone can develop oral cancer, some individuals are at greater risk than others. And those with a high risk of developing mouth cancer are more likely to benefit from a cancer screening. Common risk factors for the illness include:

  • Previous diagnosis of mouth cancer
  • Sex (men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women)
  • Age over 40
  • An unhealthy diet
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Presence of human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Tobacco use, including the use of cigarettes, e-cigs, pipes, snuff cigars, and chewing tobacco
  • Excessive exposure to the sun, which increases the risk of lip cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Mouth Cancer

As we alluded to earlier, when a dentist does an oral cancer screening, they look out for the following symptoms:

  • Red or white patches on the inside of your mouth
  • Spots that bleed continuously and don’t heal over time
  • Lumps or hard spots in your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • General mouth or ear pain
  • Numbness or pain that you feel when you put pressure or bite down on your teeth
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing

Preventing Oral Cancer

You can probably guess the various ways to reduce your risks of developing oral cancer, and it starts with lessening your risks. Though you can’t necessarily change your sex or age, there are strategies that you can adopt that will leave you far less likely to develop the illness. And with early prevention, you’ll increase your chances for survival.

  • Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice per day, flossing once per day, and rinsing with a fluoridated mouthwash
  • Quitting use of all tobacco products
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Limiting excessive exposure to the sun
  • Avoiding HPV infections of the mouth

VELscope can detect oral tissue abnormalities in their earliest stages

When you visit Barr & Diachenko Dentistry in Chicago, Illinois, you will see that we take oral cancer screenings seriously. With 41,000 or more Americans diagnosed with mouth cancer in the past year that resulted in over 12,000 deaths, it shows that the fatality rate of this disease is very high, especially when discovered in its later stages. Drs. Barr & Diachenko can routinely evaluate and detect abnormalities by using the FDA-approved VELscope® oral cancer screening system. A screening using VELscope means any signs of mouth cancer can be detected early, and this can increase our patient’s chances of survival by 80%. Those are odds that we favor.

To detect tissue abnormality in the earliest stages, VELscope® uses a safe blue light, without the aid of stains or rinses, to detect issues before they reach the surface and become visible. So in only five minutes, we can help protect our patient’s health and keep them from becoming a statistic.

During your dental screening, we will also look for bone-specific proteins in your saliva that can be early telltale signs of osteoporosis and examine sputum biomarkers to identify carcinomas in the breasts, lungs, or pancreas. We know that if you are alerted to a tumor before symptoms start to show, you will have a much higher chance of survival, which improves treatment outcomes. This approach to oral cancer screening is just one of the ways that we, as dentists, help maintain your overall health. Quite simply, your twice-a-year dental exams are your first line of defense for early detection of mouth cancer. So don’t skip your dental appointment.

Schedule an oral cancer screening with Barr & Diachenko

If you feel that you are at risk for mouth cancer or if you haven’t been to the dentist for a while, now is the time to book a dental check-up with Barr & Diachenko, the best dentists in Chicago. We make it easy to book with us. Request an appointment using our online form and we’ll be back in touch to confirm your date and time. Or give our office a call, and we can review calendars and schedules in real-time. Whatever approach works best for you, be sure to take the step to protect your overall health with an oral cancer screening.