One further step in good home oral care is regular self –examination for oral cancer. We have already mentioned that any sore that has been in the mouth for more than a week should be brought to a dentists attention at once. The chances are good that it will prove not to be malignant, but we are better able than ever to diagnose and treat precancerous conditions, and early detection is of the greatest importance. You can play a major part in preventing oral cancer or catching it while it can be readily treated and cured if you take the time to examine the mouth regularly for any signs of disease. There is a high rate of successful cures for oral cancers discovered and treated before they are two centimeters or less in size, and the survival rate with cancers one centimeter or less in diameter is twice as good. However, the percentages of cures diminish considerably as the cancer gets larger than two centimeters.
So what should you be looking for?
Generally speaking, look for lumps and bumps, and carefully observe any color changes on the mouth tissues, particularly if they are red, white, or blue. Also check color changes in skin (head and neck). The high-risk areas for oral cancer are: the lateral border (sides) of the tongue; the floor of the mouth; the soft palate (back of the rook of the mouth); the ventral border (undersurface) of the tongue, and the tonsils.
There are eight steps for self-examination for oral cancer. They are listed briefly below for your convenience. Though the procedure is simple enough, it should be demonstrated by your dentist to ensure you are doing it properly.
- Face. Examine the symmetry of the face in a mirror, and check for irregularities and new imbalance between the two sides.
- Lips. Pull up upper and lower lips to check the texture and color.
- Gums. Raise upper and lower lips to check color and conditions of the gums.
- Cheeks: Draw back the side of the mouth to check inside the cheeks.
- Tongue and floor of mouth. Move the tongue, check as far back as can be seen in the mirror, and feel the area.
- Palate. Examine the upper palate as far back as you can see.
- Neck. Feel for anything unusual on the sides of the neck.
- Trachea. Hold the thyroid cartilage (the Adam’s apple). It should go up and down when you swallow.
If you should discover any unusual lumps, bumps, spots or color changes, and so on, bring them to our dentist’s attention as soon as possible. Any spot that doesn’t disappear within one week should be investigated by the dentists at once. If you have a sore throat that persists, don’t hesitate to consult your dentist about it.