Oral carcinoma represents 2.9% of all diagnosed cancer cases in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 51,000 individuals throughout the nation will develop oral carcinoma this year, resulting in an anticipated 10,000 fatalities. Oral carcinoma can manifest in various regions within the orofacial complex, although it is most frequently observed on the tongue, tonsils and oropharynx, gums, mouth floor, lips, cheek lining, or hard palate. Although this disease can affect anyone, men have twice the likelihood of developing oral carcinoma compared to women. Men over the age of 50 who are heavy smokers and regular alcohol consumers are particularly vulnerable to oral carcinoma. Additional risk factors may include excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunlamps, gastro-intestinal reflux disease (GERD), previous radiation treatment to the head and neck, exposure to certain chemicals, and poor dietary habits. While the mortality rate associated with oral carcinoma has been declining over the past few decades due to early detection and advancements in treatment methods, there has been a recent increase in the occurrence of oropharyngeal cancer. This rise can be attributed to the heightened spread of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).
What are the indications and manifestations of oral cancer?
During a comprehensive examination, the dentist will conduct a thorough screening for oral cancer. Initially, the dentist will carefully examine the patient’s medical and dental records, inquiring about any changes to their overall health or oral well-being. Subsequently, the dentist will meticulously inspect the oral cavity, as well as the head and neck regions, for any indications or symptoms that could suggest an underlying issue. These signs or symptoms include non-healing mouth ulcers or sores, the presence of abnormal lumps, red or white patches, persistent unexplained swelling, pain while swallowing, discomfort in the tongue, recurring ear or neck pain, a persistent sensation of something stuck in the throat, tenderness or numbness in the mouth or lips, loose teeth, and jaw pain or stiffness. If the dentist identifies any suspicious lesions, tissue abnormalities, or unusual symptoms, further evaluation and investigation will be conducted.