It is estimated that there are 50,000 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed every year within the United States. While oral cancer can be rare in children, it is not unheard of. As your child’s pediatric dentist, we believe early detection is better prevention and provide routine oral cancer screenings for you and your family.
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer, also known as oral cavity cancer, is a disease where malignant or cancerous cells begin to develop in the mouth. Oral cancer is divided into two groups: cancer that forms in the oral cavity or cancer that forms in the oropharynx. The oral cavity consists of the lips, cheek, the inside of the mouth, teeth, gums, tongue, floor and roof of the mouth. The oropharynx refers to the middle region of the throat and includes your tonsils and the base of the tongue.
Can Children Develop Oral Cancer?
Though oral cancer is more common in adults, it can still develop in children. The most common forms of oral cancer found in children include lymphoma and sarcoma cell cancer. Often many of the tumors found are benign and non-harmful, but it is still important to check.
Your child’s oral health is important, and we believe in the strength of early detection and prevention for successful treatment.
How Your Pediatric Dentist Can Help
As pediatric dentists, it is our job to monitor your child’s health regularly so any potential conditions can be detected and treated as early as possible.
It is recommended that children attend dental checkups every six months for a full dental exam and professional teeth cleaning. During these appointments, we also conduct oral cancer screenings.
Oral cancer screenings consist of checking the oral cavity–lips, cheek, lining, gums, tongue, the floor of the mouth, and roof of the mouth. We also examine the back section of the tongue, where the tongue attaches to the mouth, tonsils, and soft tissue of the throat. The last part of the screening involves feeling the jaw and neck for any abnormalities.
During these appointments, if you’ve noticed any changes in your child’s medical history or unusual symptoms related to their oral health, please bring them to the attention of the dentist.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Signs of oral cancer can include the following symptoms:
- Abnormal changes in your child’s voice
- Chronic ear pain
- Chronic sore throat
- Difficulty chewing, talking, swallowing, or moving the tongue
- Flat patches of tissue that appear velvety in texture (may be different in color such as red or white)
- Numbness in the oral cavity
- Pain or tenderness in the mouth or lips
- Soft tissue that appears to be rough, thickening, or crusty
- Sores that do not heal
Though these symptoms can apply to a variety of oral health conditions aside from oral cancer, if you notice any of these symptoms, contact your pediatric dentist immediately. By seeking immediate medical attention, your child can achieve symptom relief and receive the appropriate treatment.
How To Lower Your Child’s Risk
Raising awareness about the condition and its symptoms can help you make informed decisions on how to lower your child’s risk of developing oral cancer.
Continue to schedule and attend your child’s dental appointments to ensure your child has the best oral health possible. Your child should visit the dentist every six months for a professional cleaning and check-up, remember that your pediatric dentist will conduct an oral cancer screening at each appointment as well.
Help your child maintain a good oral hygiene routine by brushing twice a day for at least two minutes a session and remembering to floss daily.
Strengthen your family’s oral health by eating a well-balanced diet full of colorful vegetables and fruits.
Studies show that certain strains of HPV, or the Human Papillomavirus, can increase your child’s risk of developing oral cancer. The CDC recommends that children aged 11-12 get the vaccine to decrease their risk of developing cancers associated with HPV.
As pediatric dentists, we pride ourselves on our ability to identify and treat areas of concern in your child’s oral health, oral cancer included. Should anything be found, you can rest assured we will work with your child’s entire healthcare team to determine the best course of treatment. By following these tips, you can lower your child’s risk of developing oral cancer. For more information on oral cancer or to schedule an appointment, contact Children’s Dentistry of San Diego today.