If you’re like most Americans, you know all the reasons it’s important to see your dentist twice a year. It can prevent tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and more, right? But what about screening for oral cancer? Do you know why it’s so important? You’ve probably been checked in the past and you didn’t even know it. Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, let us tell you how often you should be checked for this disease and what you can expect during a typical screening process.
Oral Cancer Facts
Individuals who smoke and/or use tobacco products may be at a higher risk of developing oral cancer, but people who’ve never even picked up a cigarette can be diagnosed with the disease. The American Cancer Society says an estimated 53,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. It can appear on your tongue, lips, tonsils, gums, and even your salivary glands.
Oral cancer appears most often in men over the age of 50, but risky behaviors in recent years have seen a slight shift in the demographic. Now, more and more people under the age of 50 are developing the disease. Some of the risk factors include:
- Lengthy exposure to the sun
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
The Frequency of Screening
While this may vary from dentist to dentist, you should be screened for oral cancer at least once a year. If you smoke, you should be checked more frequently. Your dentist can detect 85% of oral cancers, but if you noticed any of the following symptoms prior to your appointment, call your dental office immediately.
- Red or white patches in your mouth
- Difficulty chewing
- Sore throat
- Lumps in or around your mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain in or around your ears
The Screening Process
When visiting your dentist for a routine checkup, you can expect them to carefully examine your mouth for any irregularities or cancerous tissue. They will check your mouth, tongue, cheeks, throat, head, jaw, and neck for any signs of cancer. This will be done visually and physically. For a thorough examination, your dentist will use the VELscope Vx system, which magnifies oral issues and makes abnormalities easier to detect. It is also done in about two minutes! Your dentist will also check your lymph nodes and neck, as well as your ear and jaw joints.
Early detection is key when diagnosing oral cancer. The earlier it’s caught, the higher your chances are of successful treatment.
Just a few minutes out of your day can make all the difference in the world. Let your dentist give you a beautiful, healthy smile and peace of mind with an oral cancer screening.
About the Practice
Are you looking for a dental practice that aims to provide compassionate care? Brown & Nawrocki Restorative & Cosmetic Dentistry is the place for you. As part of our dedication to preventative dentistry, we believe in the importance of oral cancer screening as part of your regular dental checkup. Haven’t been checked in the past? Let us put your mind at ease. Contact us to find out how we can help by visiting our website or calling (386) 677-1046.