Most dental patients worry about cavities. But there’s another “C” word that dentists think about during your examination: cancer. Oral cancer screenings are an integral part of any regular dental checkup.
More than 42,000 Americans receive a diagnosis of oral cancer every year. While heavy drinkers, smokers and those using other tobacco products over the age of 50 are at the highest risk for developing mouth and throat cancers, a form of oral cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) has become more prevalent in young people with no other known risk factors. Early detection is very important, which is why we perform a thorough examination during your twice-yearly visits.
The examination is painless and simple. We look and gently feel around your face, lips, mouth and neck, checking for any abnormalities or lumps. After you open your mouth we can check for signs of cancer (such as red or white patches) on the inside of your cheeks and lips along with the roof and floor of your mouth. Then we will take some gauze and gently move your tongue from side to side to better visualize its base and underside.
You can do your part to protect yourself from oral cancer by keeping an eye out for symptoms between dental visits. Let us know immediately if you notice any of the following potential warning signs:
mouth sores that don’t go away within two weeks
painful, tender or numb areas in your mouth or on your lips
lumps around your face, jaw or neck
rough spots, crusty areas, continuous bleeding
red or white patches in the mouth
trouble chewing, swallowing or moving your jaw or tongue
By making sure you see us for regular cleanings and dental examinations, you’re already participating in the best screening process available for oral cancer―and keeping your mouth healthy and disease-free in other ways at the same time.