Here is why dentists play an important role in detecting oral cancer. 

The role of dentists in oral cancer detection

The role of dentists in oral cancer detection


OMG Admin

April 14,2021

Oral cancer is not widely known. The month of April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout this month, health professionals educate the general public about what is oral cancer and how to spot it. This kind of cancer affects thousands of Americans each year. 

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) estimates that 54,010 adults in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2021. It is also estimated 10,850 deaths will result because of this. 

The good news is that oral cancer can be detected early. Our sedation dentistry San Antonio team shares these early symptoms of oral cancer and the important role that dentists play in detecting it. 


What is oral cancer

The term “oral cancer” is given to a type of cancer that develops in the mouth or oral cavity. This type of cancer may occur in lips, gums, tongue, cheek linings, roof and floor of the mouth. 

DNA mutations in the lips or mouth cells cause oral cancer. This mutation may cause the cells to multiply uncontrollably and form a tumor. With time, it can spread to other parts of the head and neck. 


Symptoms of oral cancer

It can be easy for dental patients to mistake the symptoms of oral cancer for a toothache. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America shares that some early symptoms of oral cancer include:


  • Consistent mouth pain

  • Mouth sores that do not heal

  • A lump in the cheek 

  • Sore throat or feeling that something is stuck in the throat

  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing 

  • Numbness in the tongue 

  • Teeth become loose

  • Change in voice 

  • Weight loss  


The important role that dentists play in helping detect oral cancer 

Dentists go beyond filling cavities and pulling teeth. These professionals play a key role in detecting the early stages of oral cancer. During dental exams, dentists ask their patients if they have noticed any changes in their health. 

After the questions have been asked and recorded, a dentist will begin to perform an oral cavity exam. This examination checks the patient’s gum, lips, cheek lining, tongue, floor and roof of the mouth. 

From there, a dentist will also check the patient’s throat and feel the jaw and neck for any lumps. For more information, the American Dental Association has a full video showing detailed step by step of how to conduct an oral exam


How to encourage anxious dental patients to get regular check-ups 

Getting your patients to make regular visits to your office is important for detecting the early stages of oral cancer. This is not always possible when patients have a fear of going to the dentist. Dental anxiety is more common than people think. 

One of the behaviors that people with dental anxiety exhibit is avoidance. They avoid making regular dental visits. Avoiding the dentist could increase the risk of oral cancer symptoms going unnoticed. 

Dentists can encourage anxious dental patients to make regular visits by introducing them to Level I Sedation, also known as minimal sedation and Anxiolysis. This form of dental sedation is taken as a sedative and produces a minimally depressed level of consciousness. Level I Sedation leaves patients feeling relaxed, but still able to answer questions.


Are you looking for a sedation dentistry San Antonio course?

Midwest Sedation Consultants offers Level I Sedation recertification courses online. Our courses are available in eight states that include Nebraska, Kansas, Oregon, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Enroll in a course today!