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Oral Cancer Affects Both Men & Women: How Your Dentist Can Detect Deadly Illness

Update Date: Apr 20, 2016 06:32 AM EDT

Dentists are normally known as the right person to address toothaches which could lead to fillings or extractions, depending on the state of a person’s dentals.

But dentists can do more than that which many may have probably come across. It goes beyond simple tooth extractions such as assessing and evaluating patients which would normally be routine when dental screening for oral care is done.

Dental screening is seen nothing more than an initial assessment through any findings on that end could be a preventive measure for worst case scenarios. That includes suspicious lesions which could be cancerous.

One person who can attest to that is Dr. Henry Ho, MD and an otolaryngologist and medical director, head and neck program at the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.

“Dentists and their hygienists are very good screeners for oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer. They do a thorough check of the mucous membrane and structures of the mouth for suspicious lesions and refer the patient to a head and neck surgeon if necessary,” bares Ho.

The assessment will of course not be complete unless the patient fully reveals things that bother him. This is why during routine oral exams, patients are encouraged to share all that they may be experiencing.

Among the symptoms that could make a difference include:

  • Sores that do not heal or bleed
  • Lumps
  • Pain or numbness in the mouth or lips
  • Odd color changes in oral tissues
  • Difficulty when it comes to chewing or swallowing

Ideally, these are symptoms that folks would reveal when they visit their dentist after which a thorough check would be made to determine the root cause of it all.

The obvious one that has to be ruled out is the possible head and neck cancer which is one of the popular cases plaguing the United States to date.

And what could possibly be the root cause of these complaints?

“Smoking and heavy drinking can greatly increase the risk of head and neck cancers,” explains Ho. “Exposure to the human papillomavirus can also increase risk, and we are seeing an increase in younger people with these cancers due to HPV.”

If head and neck cancers are suspect and found to exist, the usual treatments to adjust them include surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.

It should be noted that there is no fast way to determine if one would be victim to head and neck cancer through making regular visits to the dentist and undergoing proper oral care assessment and evaluation could place that risk to a minimum.

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