Hearing that the dentist screens for oral cancer at your checkups may surprise you. True, oral cancer may not be talked as much as other types of cancer, but make no mistake: if it’s not caught early, it’s often deadly. With a high treatment success rate in cases where the cancer was spotted and diagnosed early, it’s clear why your dentist makes screening a regular part of your dental visits.
What you should know
- Oral cancer often begins as a small white or red spot in the mouth. This trouble spot probably won’t cause discomfort at first, so patients may not be aware there’s a problem.
- It can affect any area of the mouth, including the lips, gum tissue cheek lining, or tongue.
- Your dentist will check for symptoms of an underlying problem, such as a sore that hasn’t healed, oral tissues that have changed color, or a lump or rough spot anywhere in your mouth.
- Your risk of developing oral cancer increases when you are a smoker and/or heavy drinker, however, it is possible for oral cancer to occur even if you are neither.
- People over 40 are more likely to have oral cancer.
Your dentist will be on the lookout for anything abnormal when he or she examines your mouth at a routine checkup. Sores that can be traced to a likely cause may be treated conventionally and then reassessed at a follow-up visit. In some cases, your dentist will take cell sample from the area and send it to a lab for analysis. Seeing the dentist on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. If it’s been a while since your last appointment, make one today—your dentist will be happy to answer questions about oral cancer and other oral health issues.