The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 40,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with mouth or throat cancer in 2012.
The oral cavity includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, front part of your tongue, floor of the mouth beneath the tongue and the hard palate that makes up the roof of your mouth. The throat (pharynx) starts at the soft part of the roof of your mouth and continues back into your throat. It includes the back section of your tongue as well as the base where the tongue attaches to the floor of your mouth.
During your dental visit, your dentist can talk to you about your health history and examine these areas for signs of mouth and/or throat cancer. Regular visits to your dentist can improve the chances that any suspicious changes in your oral health will be caught early, at a time when cancer can be treated more easily.
The symptoms of mouth or throat cancer can include:
sores that bleed easily or do not heal
a thick or hard spot or lump
a roughened or crusted area
numbness, pain or tenderness
a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
Make sure to tell your dentist about any problems you have when chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw.
Keeping your mouth healthy during treatment:
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the first thing you should do before beginning cancer treatment is to see your dentist. After your treatment begins, be sure to check your mouth every day for sores or other changes.
Other NIDCR tips to keep your mouth moist:
Keep your mouth moist.
Drink a lot of water.
Suck ice chips.
Use sugarless gum or sugar-free hard candy.
Use a saliva substitute to help moisten your mouth.
Tips for cleaning your mouth:
Brush your teeth, gums, and tongue with an extra-soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime. If it hurts, soften the bristles in warm water.
Use a fluoride toothpaste.
Use the special fluoride gel that your dentist prescribes.
Don’t use mouthwashes with alcohol in them.
Floss your teeth gently every day. If your gums bleed and hurt, avoid the areas that are bleeding or sore, but keep flossing your other teeth.
Rinse your mouth several times a day with a solution of 1/4 teaspoon each of baking soda and salt in one quart of warm water. Follow with a plain water rinse.
Dentures that don’t fit well can cause problems. Talk to your cancer doctor or dentist about your denture.