The American Dental Association recommends twice-a-year dental checkups so you can have your teeth cleaned professionally and get a check for early signs of tooth decay and gum issues. But many dentists also use these routine visits to check for signs of cancer.

Oral cancer, which often appears as a growth or sore that does not go away, includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, and throat. It can become life-threatening if you don’t find it and treat it early.

That’s why a cancer screening is an important part of each checkup! It is important to evaluate the oral cavity, including the soft tissues.

What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

It’s important to be aware of the following signs and symptoms and to see your dentist if they do not disappear after two weeks.

  • A sore or irritation that doesn’t go away
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
  • A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
  • Some people complain of a sore throat, feeling like something is caught in their throat, numbness, hoarseness or a change in voice. If you have any of these symptoms, let your dentist know, especially if you’ve had them for two weeks or more.

Having regular dental checkups will help you head off problems with your teeth. But your dentist is also in a good position to catch signs of oral cancer so you can get early treatment.

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