Arm Yourself with the Facts About: Oral Cancer

Hearing that the dentist screens for oral cancer at your checkups may surprise you. True, oral cancer may not be oral-cancertalked 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.

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