While you may think gum disease and tooth decay are all your dentist is looking for when you arrive for a regularly scheduled dental appointment, you’re wrong. Oral cancer screenings are part of the preventive care your dentist provides. This is because if oral cancer is caught in its early stages, it can be treated successfully. Unfortunately, many of the cases are diagnosed too late. Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, your dentist wants you to understand the importance of screenings and just what kind of impact oral cancer can have on your mouth.
Why Are Oral Cancer Screenings Important?
On average, one American dies each hour from oral cancer. Half of the individuals who are diagnosed will not live beyond five years. This is a scary and shocking statistic, but it doesn’t have to be if you take a proactive approach. Early detection can be the difference between life and death. By having an oral cancer screening performed by your dentist, you are not only providing yourself with peace of mind, but you’re also taking the first step toward successful treatment if any abnormalities are found.
What Are the Symptoms?
Not all symptoms lie on the surface. When you arrive for your regular appointment, your dentist may ask you about any changes or problems you’ve been having with your mouth. Everything from a sore throat to a hoarse voice can be indicators of possible mouth cancer in Orlando. Here are some other signs to watch for:
- Biting that results in numbness or pain
- Red or white patches
- Oral sores that won’t heal or continually bleed
- A lump or hard spot in your mouth
How Can it Impact My Mouth?
If you’ve been diagnosed with oral cancer, it’s natural to feel a wide array of emotions. From scared and angry, to sad and depressed, there’s no doubt you’ll have a difficult time coping with the news. When it comes to being treated with oral cancer, it’s important to know that the recovery time can be hard. You may experience problems with:
- Impaired speech
- Facial disfigurement
Luckily, your healthcare team will work to ensure you have access to the right type of services, which may include plastic surgery, speech therapy, dietary counseling, and emotional support. The effects of oral cancer can be difficult to overcome, but by working with a team of professionals, you can overcome these obstacles.
- Eating. If your taste buds are affected by radiotherapy, or you experience dry mouth, it’s normal. Treatment for oral cancer can cause your jaw and throat to feel sore, making it hard to eat and swallow. Painkillers or a protective coating gel can help get you through this part of your treatment.
- Facial changes. If oral cancer has left you with some facial disfigurements, a plastic surgeon can restore your jaw, tongue, mouth, lips or throat. Your appearance plays a big role in how you see and feel about yourself, so if you’re worried what others may think, remember, those who love and care about you will continue to do so, even after surgery.
- Relationships. Being treated for cancer will make it harder for you to embrace intimate moments with your partner. If you’re struggling to reconnect or be physically intimate, try simple ways of touching such as holding hands. Even a long look into each other’s eyes can help in showing your feelings.
If oral cancer treatment is part of your life now, don’t give in to the challenges and hardships. Understand that there are people who want to help you get your life back on track. Embrace the help and look forward to what lies ahead.
About the Author
Dr. Hisham Barakat graduated from dental school in 1998 before completed a one-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency (AEGD) at Louisiana State University. In addition, he completed a two-year General Practice Residency (GPR) at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. Dr. Barakat and the team at Mosaic Smiles believe patients of all ages should have a strong foundation of proper oral hygiene and professional care. As part of our preventive services, we offer oral cancer screenings. To learn more, visit our website or call (703) 207-0700.