The oral cavity is one of the most essential parts of the human body, but poor hygiene and neglecting oral care may contribute to declining oral health. Various factors, such as genetics, lifestyle choices, and trauma can also affect the overall health of the mouth, teeth, and gums. More than 49,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer annually in the United States. When oral health declines, an individual may be at higher risk for developing disease or cancer.
In severe circumstances, people miss the early signs of disease, such as cancerous sores, patches, and lumps. This can cause those affected to forego a chance at seeing the best results from treatment. At Rockland Dental Specialists, our professional team’s experience and commitment to dentistry help our patients maintain oral health and treat disease.
What Are the Early Signs of Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer can affect all the visible portions of the oral cavity, including lips, gums, tongue, inner cheeks, and the upper or lower mouth. When cancer occurs inside the mouth, symptoms such as localized pain, growths, loose teeth, and other symptoms cause daily challenges for the affected individuals. Noting the early signs and symptoms of oral cancer can help prevent the progression of the disease, ultimately giving the patient a better chance to have positive treatment results.
The early signs of oral cancer can include the following:
- Mouth sores, irritation, or thickening in oral mucosa
- White or red patches within the mouth
- Throat hoarseness and vocal changes
- A persistent and unchanging cough
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing, or speaking
- Pain or discomfort in moving the jaw or tongue
- Swelling within the oral cavity, jaw, or neck
- Head pain, commonly in the ears
Depending on where the disease originates, oral cancer can affect various areas of the head and neck. Additionally, prolonged signs and symptoms that are left untreated may lead to worsening. Dentists are skilled in evaluating and treating the oral cavity. If you feel or note any abnormal changes in your gums, inner cheeks, or other areas within your mouth, consult with one of our dentists for a thorough evaluation of possible signs of cancer.
The Stages of Oral Cancer and Evaluation During the Early Phase
Regardless of age and previous dental history, routine dental visits to evaluate for abnormalities are essential to preventing oral cancer and disease. Additionally, maintaining regular visits can help with identifying cancer and the progress of any signs or symptoms. While different elements influence the progression and occurrence of oral diseases, taking action and incorporating oral hygiene practices in your daily routine may produce positive results.
The basic stages of oral cancer include:
- Stage 0: In the earliest stage, abnormal cells within the lining of the lips or oral cavity have the potential to become cancerous.
- Stage I: A very early stage characterized by a tumor that is not more than 2 centimeters, and cancer has not progressed into the lymph nodes.
- Stage II: A tumor is between 2-4 centimeters, but cancer has not reached the lymph nodes.
- Stage III: Cancer is larger than 4 centimeters or has progressed to the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: In the most advanced stage, mouth cancer may be any size but is characterized by spreading within the jaw and other areas within the body. One large lymph node or multiple small nodes of any size on the same or opposite side may also be affected.
The benefits of evaluating oral cancer in the early stages include improving oral health and having better results with treatment. Cancer within the oral cavity is best treated with surgical solutions or radiation therapy with a cancer specialist. In the early stages, your dentist may help you develop a treatment plan to maintain your oral health and prevent the occurrence or worsening of the disease.
Call Rockland Dental Specialists to Schedule a Dental Cleaning and Evaluation Appointment
At Rockland Dental Specialists, our preventative dentistry team understands the importance of accessible dental care and treatments that our patients need. If you have noticed abnormal changes within your oral cavity, our dental specialists at Rockland Dental Specialists are available to help you discuss and plan an evaluation. Experienced dentists at our office are skilled in providing various dental services, including preventative care.
We understand the hesitation and challenges that patients may feel when visiting a dentist. However, you can count on our team to remain professional and listen to your concerns. Don’t hesitate to treat your symptoms and identify the early stages of oral cancer. Complete our contact form or call (845) 400-9205 to request your dental cleaning and evaluation today.