Many people don’t realize just how closely their oral hygiene is related to their overall health. You don’t only go to the dentist to prevent cavities and keep your pearly whites from yellowing; we are also consistently monitoring your mouth for signs of more serious illness, like oral cancers in your head and neck.
Oral cancers, which include lips, tongue, cheeks and floor of the mouth, most often appears as a growth or a sore in the mouth that does not go away. Like all cancers, oral cancer can be fatal if it isn’t addressed. Throat cancer refers to cancerous tumours in your throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), or tonsils.
Signs and Symptoms
- Lumps, bumps, swelling or eroded areas on the lips, gums, or inside the mouth
- White and/or red patches in the mouth
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in the face, mouth, or neck
- Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal
- A soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
- Hoarseness, sore throat, or change in sound of voice
Reducing Your Risk
There are steps you can take to improve your health on a daily basis and prevent the development of cancer in your mouth and throat.
- Don’t smoke. Smokers are 6 times as likely to develop oral and throat cancers than non-smokers.
- Don’t use smokeless tobacco products. Using smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco makes you 50 times more likely to develop oral cancers.
- Limit alcohol intake. Oral cancer is 6 times more likely to affect heavy drinkers than non-drinkers.
- Practice safe sun habits. Repeated and extended exposure to the sun’s rays can increase the risk of cancer on the lip, especially the lower lip
- See your dentist on a regular schedule. Although you may be paying attention to your oral health, some spots or sores in the mouth can be very tiny and difficult to see on your own. During your next dental appointment, ask your dentist to perform an oral exam. Early detection of mouth and throat cancers can drastically improve the chance of successful treatment.