Dentists examine the mouth for cavities during checkups yet they are looking for much more than tooth decay. Dentists are also looking for signs of oral cancer. Sadly, more than 50,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer or cancer of the throat, the back of the tongue or the tonsils every single year. You can do your part to prevent oral cancer or at least identify oral cancer in its earliest stages by visiting with your dentist once every six months.
Oral cancer1 begins in the mouth. This type of cancer can start anywhere from the gums to the tongue, the lips, the roof of the mouth, the floor of the mouth and so on. Some factors that increase the risk of contracting oral cancer are smoking, overexposure to the sun, and certain types of viruses. Those who have oral cancer are not completely powerless; a number of treatment options are available including surgery, radiation therapy or a combination of both.
If you require surgery for your oral cancer, there will be some residual swelling and soreness. This soreness has the potential to make it uncomfortable to eat. You might experience pain as you chew and swallow. Some of those who undergo radiation therapy for oral cancer report this treatment makes their food taste somewhat metallic. Others report radiation therapy results in dry mouth. Certain treatments cause nausea.
Making some minor changes to the way you eat will allow you still be able to nourish their body properly after an oral cancer diagnosis and treatment. As an example, if you find it difficult to swallow, consider eating smaller portions every couple hours as opposed to trying to gulp down one spoonful after another to finish off a big meal. A diet consisting of soft foods will also make it easier to swallow and subject your teeth to that much less pressure. Eating will prove easier if you keep some water with you at all times to maintain a moist mouth. In fact, some doctors prescribe artificial saliva to oral cancer patients who find it difficult to eat.
The manner in which you talk can be affected after you undergo surgery for oral cancer. The impact of this surgery on speech is ultimately dictated by the location and size of the cancer, the amount of tissue the surgeon removed and other nuances of your unique cancer. As an example, those who have cancer of the tongue typically find it is more challenging to enunciate their “r” and “l” sounds. Another example is those who have a cancerous growth along the roof of their mouth will find their voice gradually changes. In fact, it is even possible for oral cancer to cause a patient to lose his or her voice.
If you are concerned about the sound of your voice after being diagnosed with oral cancer, you should know help is available. Ask for assistance from a language and speech therapist to speak more clearly. You might also be able to use a removable device that resembles a dental retainer to fill in for missing tissue or teeth that ultimately makes it significantly easier to enunciate words.
If you have not been to the dentist’s office in the last six months, you are overdue for a checkup, cleaning, and scan for oral cancer. Remember our dental team is here for you. Give us a call at (707) 416-0626 to schedule an appointment2.