Did you know that black spots on your gums could be a sign of oral cancer? Noticing dark spots on your gums can be scary and should be addressed immediately. Oral cancer is a severe disease, and it’s essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms. This article will discuss the dangers of oral cancer and how dentists handle it. We will also provide information on how to get screened for oral cancer. If you notice any black spots on your gums, you should see a dentist immediately.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that affects the mouth and throat. It can be deadly if not treated early, so it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Oral cancer can occur in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, gums, roof of the mouth, and inside of the cheeks. Most oral cancers can be found in the head and neck but may not cause any symptoms until the oral cancers progress. If no symptoms occur, the developing oral cancer can migrate cancer cells to the lymph nodes.
Causes of Oral Cancer
Several things can cause oral and oropharyngeal cancer, and causation can differ from person to person. The most common risk factors include those who smoke, drink alcohol, or have a compromised immune system and, in some cases, HPV (human papillomavirus).
Signs of Oral Cancers
The most common signs and symptoms of oral cancer include:
- black gums or dark brown spots
- bleeding or numbness in your mouth
- ores that don’t heal properly
- difficulty swallowing or speaking
- chronic sore throat
If you experience any of these symptoms, please see a dentist as soon as possible. Remember that the cause of a dark spot on the gums can also be the malformation of a blood vessel called a hemangioma. This usually doesn’t require treatment and is a benign (non-cancerous) condition. Early diagnosis is key to the successful treatment of mouth cancer and head and neck cancers.
What is involved in an oral cancer exam?
Although it may seem like an oral cancer exam would only include a visual inspection of your mouth, the doctor will take a closer look around other areas like the throat and neck. They might also recommend endoscopy if there are signs or symptoms that something is off in one specific region. This allows them to get images close up and see what is happening. The dentist may also do a biopsy if it seems there’s an area of concern. A biopsy is done by taking a small sample of tissue which is then sent off for further analysis by a lab.
What type of tests are used during oral cancer screenings?
During a routine dental exam, your dentist can do an oral biopsy and swab certain areas of your mouth where there may be problematic areas. They may also consider combining this with an x-ray to look for abnormalities in your mouth and neck regions. Early detection is essential so treatment can begin as soon as possible. Depending on your current condition, other screening procedures can be conducted.
- HPV test (human papillomavirus)
- Barium swallow
- CT or CAT scan
- PET scan
- MRI scan
These diagnostic tests can provide clear information on your current oral health. The dentist will carefully examine the results and classify whether oral cancer exists or not. This is also known as the staging process. If it seems you do have oral cancer, our team will create a custom solution that meets your needs.
Oral Cancer Treatments
Treatment options and types will vary from person to person and depend upon the severity of the mouth cancer. Treatment may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery. If caught early on, oral cancer has a high survival rate. The Oral Cancer Foundation has a website that you can also visit to learn more about oral cancer and how oral cancers are treated.
Prevent Oral Cancer
The best way to prevent oral and oropharyngeal cancers is by avoiding known risk factors. This includes not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all, and practicing safe sex. You can also reduce your risk of oral cancer by getting regular dental checkups and screenings.
Other Causes for Black Spots on Your Gums
Black or dark spots on your gums are not always an indicator of mouth cancers. There could be something else going on.
Here are a few other causes:
Like any other part of your body, you can also bruise your gums. If you’ve recently fallen and busted your mouth or face or maybe have been struck by something (like if you play a contact sport), a bruised gum could be the result. Sometimes brushing or flossing too hard can cause your gums to bruise.
A dark spot on your gums can also be caused by what is called an eruption hematoma. This is a cyst filled with fluid and blood, which can give it a dark purple or black color. This usually happens when a tooth is coming in and has been injured from a fall or bump.
Amalgam is used for dental fillings. So, if you’ve ever had a dental filling, you have been exposed to amalgam. An amalgam tattoo is harmless but can cause a dark spot to occur if left on your gums. Amalgam tattoos don’t require treatment but can be prevented. Just ask your dentist to use a rubber dam to prevent these particles from getting to your gums.
A blue nevus can imitate the look of a freckle on your gums. They are harmless moles that are round and flat or slightly raised. There isn’t a known cause of blue nevi, but they are commonly found in women and develop during childhood or teenage years. Most dentists can diagnose a blue nevus by simply looking at it.
Where should I get an oral cancer screening done?
At Tolley Dental, we want to prevent oral cancer and provide treatment options if you are diagnosed with oral cancer. Hearing that you might have mouth cancer can be scary and stressful. Our goal is to give you peace of mind and a plan to treat cancer and prevent it from happening. Our friendly staff is here to answer your questions about mouth cancer. Schedule your first visit with us today!