The Importance of Oral Cancer Awareness

At Chalet Dental Care in St. Paul, MN, we are committed to raising awareness about oral cancer and the importance of regular screenings. Our dental hygienists are uniquely positioned to identify early signs of oral cancer during routine dental check-ups, and we strongly encourage our patients to prioritize these appointments.

Oral cancer is a serious health risk that affects tens of thousands of people each year. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 58,450 new cases of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2024, with approximately 12,230 deaths resulting from these cancers. Despite advances in treatment, the five-year survival rate for oral cancer remains around 40%, largely because these cancers are often discovered at later stages.

What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening at the Dentist?

When you visit Chalet Dental Care for a new patient exam or a regular hygiene recall, our skilled dental professionals will conduct a thorough examination of your mouth, including all soft tissues. This involves checking your lips, cheeks, tongue, throat, and roof of mouth for any abnormalities or signs of cancer.

Some common symptoms we look for include:

  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • Sores that bleed easily or do not heal
  • Thick or hard spot, lump, or thickening on the tissues of the mouth
  • Rough or crusted areas
  • Numbness, pain, or tenderness in mouth or lips
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Changes in how teeth fit together

If any concerning areas are identified, we may recommend additional testing or refer you to a specialist for further evaluation. Early detection is key to improving oral cancer outcomes, so these regular screenings are an essential part of maintaining your oral and overall health.

How to Perform an Oral Cancer Self-Exam at Home

In addition to seeing your dentist regularly, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of examining your own mouth at home for signs of oral cancer. Aim to perform a self-exam at least once a month, using a bright light and a mirror. Here’s how:

  1. Look at your face and neck. Do you notice any lumps, bumps, or swellings that are only on one side? 
  2. Pull out your cheeks to look for red or white patches, as well as sores or rough areas on your gums, cheeks, roof of mouth, and tongue.
  3. Tilt your head back and examine the roof of your mouth. Gently run your fingertips along the top of your mouth to feel for any lumps or rough patches.
  4. Pull out your tongue and look at the top, bottom, and sides. Do you notice any swelling, color changes, or sores? Gently press your tongue to the roof of your mouth and look underneath it.
  5. Feel your neck and below your lower jaw for any enlarged lymph nodes or unusual lumps. Press gently and move your fingers in small circles.

If you notice anything concerning that does not resolve within two weeks, make an appointment with your dentist or doctor to have it checked out. You can also refer to this helpful video from the Mouth Cancer Foundation for a visual guide on performing an oral cancer self-exam.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

While anyone can develop oral cancer, some factors may increase your risk. These include:

  • Tobacco use of any kind
  • Heavy alcohol consumption 
  • Excessive sun exposure to lips
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Weakened immune system

If any of these risk factors apply to you, it’s especially important to be vigilant about regular oral cancer screenings and promptly report any concerning symptoms to your healthcare providers.

Partner With Your Dental Team in the Fight Against Oral Cancer

At Chalet Dental Care, we are passionate about empowering our patients to take an active role in their oral health. By seeing us regularly for check-ups and cleanings and routinely examining your own mouth at home, you are taking important steps to catch oral cancer as early as possible if it develops.

If it’s been a while since your last dental visit, there’s no better time than now to schedule an appointment. Our caring, experienced team is here to support you in maintaining a healthy mouth and a healthy life. Together, we can work to lower the staggering impact of oral cancer through awareness, education, and proactive screenings. Your well-being is our top priority.

Contact Our Dental Clinic in St. Paul, MN

If you have further questions about our preventative oral health services and want to learn more about our New Patient process, reach out to our team at Chalet Dental Care today. Contact us at (651) 413-9150 today for our services.

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