Oral cancer is the main type of cancer in the head and neck areas. It makes up 85 percent of all cancer in these areas. However, it is one of the hardest types of cancer to treat in the early stages since it is so hard to detect. Dental assistants can help save a person’s life by including oral cancer screening during check-ups.
A dental assistant can look for these common signs during a checkup:
- Numbness, pain and sensitivity anywhere in the mouth, including the tongue.
- Loose, shaky teeth even if they appear to be healthy.
- Hoarseness or strained voice.
- The feeling of a lump or object stuck in the throat, making it difficult to swallow or even breathe most of the time.
- Swollen gums; if wearing dentures or retainers, the swelling can make them uncomfortable to wear.
- Earaches that make one ear sensitive to the touch yet there’s no loss of hearing.
- Difficulty moving your jaw or tongue, or with chewing, swallowing or speaking.
- Sores, swelling, lumps or thick patches anywhere in or around the mouth (tongue and gums) or throat.
- A sore throat that wouldn’t go away no matter how often gargling with an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Red or white lesions in the mouth or lips that pop up, heal and get replaced by new ones.
What these symptoms can indicate is that some other condition can be happening too. If a dental assistant encounters a patient with these symptoms then the dentist office can arrange for a oral cancer screening. Remember it is always better to be safe than it is to be sorry.
Want to help people correct dental problems including oral cancer screening? Simply email or call (303) 800-1164 to get signed up to become a dental assistant. Class size is limited so don’t delay.
Charles F. Reed, DDS