One of the most important and effective methods of diagnosing oral cancer cases at an early stage is dental checks. Regular dental check-ups allow your dentist to keep tabs on your oral health, as well as giving them the opportunity to look out for changes in the soft tissue in the mouth and warning signs of oral cancer. Like most other forms of cancer, the earlier mouth cancer is diagnosed, the better the prognosis.
What causes oral cancer?
The main risk factors for oral cancer include smoking, drinking alcohol on a regular basis, a poor diet and HPV (human papilloma virus) infection. If you drink and smoke, you’re up to 30 times more likely to develop oral cancer than a non-smoker who only drinks occasionally.
Most cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in men over the age of 40 years old; however, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases reported among younger people and this is believed to be due to HPV exposure and an increase in binge drinking and alcohol consumption.
Why are regular check-ups so important?
When you have a dental check-up, your dentist will out for symptoms of decay and gum disease, such as cavities, swollen and sore gums, but they will also look for potential warning signs of mouth cancer. The earlier these signs are picked up, the earlier they can be investigated and a diagnosis made. Early treatment increases the chances of survival by up to 90 per cent and can literally make the difference between life and death. Currently, the 5 year survival rate is relatively low for oral cancer and this is largely due to the fact that most cases are diagnosed too late.
We encourage all our patients to see their dentist every 6-9 months and to look out for potential symptoms of mouth cancer, such as ulcers that heal very slowly, red or white patches, which appear in the mouth or throat and any abnormal lumps or swelling in the mouth.