During your twice-yearly exams with us at Uptown Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry, we want you to leave our Houston offices with sparkling teeth. But we have goals beyond that. Sure, removing tartar and plaque and polishing your teeth are important. But even more important is our examination for the signs of oral cancer. That’s why after Migné Reece, our talented hygienist, is finished with your teeth Dr. Velasco will come in, pull on your tongue, push on your glands under your jawline, and perform other brief diagnostic exercises.
There are various symptoms of oral cancer, but our visual examination is critical to early detection.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is described as cancer that begins in the oral cavity. This can include the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, the teeth, gums, most of the tongue, the bottom of the mouth, and the hard palate. If you don’t smoke you may think oral cancer isn’t a possibility, but it can still develop. At Uptown, we’re seeing more and more oral cancer as a result of the human papilloma virus (HPV).
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
When you’re at home, we recommend that you be on the lookout for any signs of oral cancer. These are some of the most common signs or symptoms:
- Persistent mouth pain, in contrast to tooth pain
- A sore in the mouth that doesn’t heel is the most common symptom of oral cancer
- A sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat
- A lump or thickening in the cheek
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
- Numbness of the tongue or other areas inside the mouth
- Jaw swelling
- Loosening teeth
- Jaw pain
- Persistent bad breath
When you’re in for your exam and cleaning, if Dr. Velasco or Migné find any suspicious lesions (lumps, bumps, or sores) during your exam, in most cases, we will opt to remove the growth and send it off to the lab for evaluation. Most of these growths prove to be benign, but if they are cancerous the key to treatment success is catching them early. That’s one of the reasons we ask our patients to be diligent about keeping their twice-yearly exams with us.