Oral cancer is 5% of all cancers, but has a 50% 5 year survival rate. The most common area in the mouth where we see cancer is the tongue, mostly the side of the tongue, toward the back and also underneath the tongue. Other areas oral cancer is found is on the lips, cheeks, palate, sinuses, throat and floor of the mouth. Oral cancer often presents itself as an indurated mass or ulcer and is usually red and white in appearance. Other common symptoms is persistent sores, swelling, unexplained numbness, dramatic weight loss and unexplained bleeding in the mouth.
We recommend cleaning your tongue 1-2 times daily to allow for a complete inspection of the tongue. If you see something that appears on one side but not the other, please let your dentist know right away. Cleaning the tongue also allows for removal of debris, a clean taste and fresh breath. Throughout the day, tissue cells in the mouth turn over and slough onto the tongue giving it a white appearance. Removal of these cells will in turn remove bacteria and give your tongue the pink appearance it once had.
Tongue scrapers can be purchased at the drug store or given to you by your dentist. Placing a tongue scraper toward the back and pushing it forward toward the tip will effectively remove all debris. Brushing your tongue simply brushes the bacteria all around the surface but does not remove the bacteria properly. Remember to wash your tongue scraper and store it dry in your drawer.
At Leaside Dentistry, we perform an oral cancer screening at every hygiene appointment and during comprehensive exam appointments. If you suspect any changes orally between appointments, feel free to contact us to get checked out.
Written by: Jessica Kudlats