Oral cancer can develop anywhere in the mouth. It can be found on the lips, tongue, or on the oropharynx (back of the throat). Each year 29,000 Americans will be diagnosed and treated for oral cancer. Smoking, heavy drinking, the HPV virus, and increased sun exposure are all risk factors for developing oral cancer. Oral cancer appears as a white, red or a combination of red and white patches on the lips or inside of the mouth. The white patches are known as Leukoplakia and form on mucous membranes in the mouth and other areas of the body and are sometimes found to be malignant. The red patches or Erythroplakia appear as brightly colored smooth areas in the mouth, they too can become malignant. The combination of red and white patches is known as Erythroleukoplakia and is more likely to develop into cancer. Symptoms that one should look out for is a sore that does not heal, loose teeth, bleeding in your mouth, difficulty or pain when swallowing, numbness of the lower lip and chin, a lump in your neck, and an earache that does not go away. The symptoms can be associated with other dental issues and it is best to visit your 7 Day Dentist in Ladera Ranch. The dentist always performs an oral cancer screening at each dental check up. The dentist will check the roof of your mouth, the lips, and the tongue. A more thorough exam can be done by using the Vizilite oral cancer screening kit. It is a quick and painless procedure. The doctor will give you a rinse to swish in your mouth; he will then use a small light stick to illuminate any lesions in the mouth that cannot be detected by an x-ray or by the naked eye. Once he has documented any abnormalities he will stain the tongue and cheek areas to ensure that there aren’t any missed lesions. Your dentist will refer you to the oral surgeon if any of the abnormalities are of concern. The oral surgeon will perform a biopsy, which is the removal of a small piece of tissue to look for cancer cells. The oral surgeon will send the tissue sample to a pathologist for review. If the pathologist finds any cancer cells he or she will contact the oral surgeon to proceed with treatment. The oral surgeon or a medical oncologist will decide what the best course of treatment would be, depending on the stage of the oral cancer. Treatment may involve radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery depending on where in the mouth the cancer began; your overall health, and the size of the tumor. It is a good idea to discuss your treatment options with your dentist or oncologist so he or she can answer any questions. Oral cancer treatment may affect the way you eat, swallow, and speak and your appearance. Surgery to remove a cancer can be invasive and may involve removing part of the palate, tongue, or jaw. If a large tumor needs to be removed and the patient’s face does not look the same, you may have to have reconstructive surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation also have side effects, which include nausea, vomiting, weight and hair loss, and other health complications. Fear is the number one reason why patients do not walk into the dental office, but a simple painless oral cancer screening can avoid future pain, complications, and save your life.