It’s that time again. Time to visit the dentist for a cleaning and checkup. But you never get any cavities, and you brush and floss, so you figure that you’re fine. Instead of having another uneventful dental cleaning and checkup, you consider skipping it. Don’t! Beyond simply cleaning your teeth every six months, your dental checkup provides an opportunity for the dentist to perform an important task, not just for your oral health, but for your overall health as well. Regular oral cancer screenings are important to make sure you remain healthy for years to come.
What is oral cancer?
Cancerous cells grow uncontrollably and damage the surrounding tissue. Oral cancer can occur in the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, or throat as a growth or sore that doesn’t heal or go away. As with most cancers or serious conditions, early detection is often key in the treatment of oral cancer, which claims the life of one person every hour. Often it isn’t identified correctly until after it has caused significant damage, making successful treatment difficult.
What are some signs of oral cancer?
If you notice any of the following symptoms persists for more than two weeks, you should contact your doctor immediately:
- Sores, swellings, lumps, or thick patches in or around your mouth or throat.
- Discolored tissue in your mouth.
- The feeling that you have an object stuck in your throat.
- Trouble moving your jaw or tongue or problems chewing, speaking, or swallowing.
- Persistent hoarseness or sore throat.
- Ear pain without the loss of hearing.
- Numbness or pain in your mouth, including your tongue.
- Change in how your teeth or dentures fit together.
Like with gum disease and tooth decay, some of the early signs of oral cancer can be difficult to spot, particularly by the untrained eye. Plus, it can difficult to see inside your own mouth! By visiting your dentist every six months for these screenings, you have access to an experienced, trained dental professional who can help you identify these signs. By doing so, you and the dentist are more likely to catch oral cancer in its earlier stages, which increases the chances of overcoming it.
What is involved in an oral cancer screening?
As part of a routine dental checkup, oral cancer screenings are painless and usually consists of the dentist visually examining your mouth, cheeks, lips, the top and underside of your tongue, and neck for any abnormalities.
What can I do to prevent oral cancer?
Although not all cancer can be prevented, there are certain things you can do to reduce your chances of getting oral cancer.
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Limit your exposure to the sun.
- Try to conduct a self-exam regularly.
- Attend your dental checkups twice a year.
In the end, you can’t really afford not to visit the dentist every six months. Sure, you get clean teeth, but there’s so much more to it. At minimum you get peace of mind that your oral and overall health are in good standing. At worse, your dentist detects oral cancer in its early stages, helping you seek help sooner and improving your chances of beating cancer. It’s worth taking a little bit of time out of your schedule twice a year to attend your dental checkups.
About the Practice
At Franklin Avenue Dental Care, Dr. Gary Sherman and his staff have a “prevention first” philosophy. They emphasize routine checkups, strong oral hygiene, and other preventive services that treat dental problems while they are still in the earliest stages. To contact them, call or click here.