Getting enough of your vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat is important, including Vitamin D. A great way to get this vitamin is by spending at least 15 minutes a day in the sun. However, spending long days at the beach or forgetting to use sunscreen can have deadly consequences if not managed properly.
So, what does this have to do with regular dental visits? Well, skin cancer can appear in any area of our body that has skin. The mouth is no exception. Fortunately, your dentist is already aware of this and has equipped himself with the right tools for the job.
Can I Get Melanoma in My Mouth?
You’re probably aware of melanoma and how it’s a very serious type of skin cancer. You’re also probably aware that prolonged exposure to the sun increases your risk for it. In fact, according to studies conducted by the University of Minnesota, chronic sun exposure is classified as a commonly associated factor for melanoma.
Unfortunately, sunscreen isn’t always enough to prevent skin cancer entirely. And since melanoma can occur in any part of the body that contains melanocytes, it can grow in your mouth and face quite easily. That’s a huge concern for your dentist.
What are Dentists Doing to Prevent Oral Cancer?
Part of your dental exams, especially your first exams, will likely include a screening for oral cancer. Since your dentist is already checking all the areas of your mouth for tooth decay and gum disease, they have an incentive to look for signs and symptoms of oral cancer as well.
During your exam, they’ll be looking for red or whiteish patches inside your mouth. If you notice any changes in color, shape, or size in pigmentation, you need to see your doctor as soon as possible. If you notice a consistent sore throat or have difficulty chewing or swallowing, you’ll want to confirm it’s not something more serious than a common cold or the flu.
How Often Should I Get Checked?
The American Dental Association recommends people see their dentist every 6 months for examinations and cleanings. You shouldn’t have to ask your dentist to specifically give you an oral cancer screening, but you should ask them if you’re curious about what the process entails.
If the dentist deems it necessary, they might recommend additional screenings with more advanced medical devices, just to be sure that you’re cancer-free. Oral cancer takes a life every hour on average, so it’s worth the extra time to ensure your status.
It’s not to late to get checked. Schedule an appointment with your dentist to stop oral cancer in its tracks!
About the Author
Gary C. Sherman, D.M.D., graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. With over 30 years of practice under his belt, he’s more than capable of addressing any concerns you have regarding your oral health, including cancer. To learn more about his practice, contact him at (516) 538-1100 or visit his website for more information.