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 comprises cancers of the lips, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, and throat, which often begin as a growth or sore that does not go away. If you don’t catch it and treat it right away, it can become life-threatening.

That’s why every visit should include a cancer screening! The oral cavity, particularly the soft tissues, must be examined.

It’s critical to be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and to get treatment from your dentist if they persist 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.

Dental checkups on a regular basis might help you avoid tooth problems. However, your dentist is in a strong position to detect early signs of oral cancer, allowing you to receive treatment.

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