Detecting and Preventing Oral Cancer: The Importance of Oral Surgeons

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, a time to bring attention to the importance of early detection and prevention of oral cancer. Oral cancer is a serious condition that affects millions of people around the world each year, with more than 53,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States alone in 2020. It is important to understand the role that oral surgeons play in detecting and preventing this condition, as well as what you can do to screen for oral cancer at home.

How Can My Oral Surgeon Help?

Oral surgeons are specialized dentists who are trained to perform surgical procedures on the mouth, jaw, and face. They are an important part of the dental healthcare team and play a crucial role in detecting and preventing oral cancer. As part of their detailed screening process, oral surgeons take several steps to identify oral cancer in its early stages.

The first step in the screening process is a visual examination of the mouth, tongue, and throat. The oral surgeon will look for any unusual or abnormal changes, such as lumps, bumps, or lesions that may be indicative of oral cancer. They will also check the lymph nodes in the neck and throat to see if they are swollen or tender, as this can be a sign that cancer has spread to these areas.Oral Surgeon Evaluating for oral cancer

Next, the oral surgeon will perform a manual exam of the mouth and throat. This involves feeling for any lumps or masses, as well as checking the texture and consistency of the tissues in the mouth and throat. They may also use a special tool called a lighted scope to examine the inside of the mouth and throat in more detail.

If the oral surgeon detects any abnormalities or suspicious areas during the visual and manual exams, they may recommend further testing, such as a biopsy or imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans. These tests can help to confirm a diagnosis of oral cancer and determine the best course of treatment.

In addition to regular screenings with an oral surgeon, there are also steps that individuals can take to screen for oral cancer at home. While self-screening is not a substitute for a professional exam, it can help to detect any early warning signs of oral cancer and prompt you to seek medical attention if necessary.

Oral Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Some signs and symptoms to look for when screening for oral cancer at home include:

-Persistent mouth sores that do not heal within a few weeks

-Red or white patches on the gums, tongue, or other areas of the mouth

-Swelling or lumps in the mouth or neck

-Difficulty swallowing or speaking

-Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down

-Unexplained bleeding or pain in the mouth

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, it is important to contact your dental professional for more comprehensive testing. They may recommend a professional screening with an oral surgeon or other dental specialist, as well as additional tests like a biopsy or imaging scans to determine the cause of your symptoms.

Prevention is Key

While regular screenings and self-exams are essential, prevention is the best treatment and there are also several steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. These include:

-Quitting smoking and avoiding tobacco products

-Limiting your alcohol consumption

-Eating a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables

-Using lip balm with SPF to protect your lips from the sun

-Practicing good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing regularly and visiting your dental professional for cleanings and checkups

By taking these steps to prevent and detect oral cancer, you can help to reduce your risk of developing this serious condition and improve your overall oral health. If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer or the screening process, be sure to talk to your dental professional for more information.

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