Each time you visit your dentist for a standard six-month check-up, they perform an oral cancer screening. As they check your gums for disease and your teeth for cavities, they’re also keeping an eye out for the tell-tale signs of oral cancer. This check is performed at every dental appointment with the aim of catching them early. Successful treatment chances are improved by catching this cancer as early as possible. If you want to learn more about how your dentist can identify this health condition and help treat it, keep reading.
Oral Cancer Screening And Your Dental Visits
Medical professionals often disagree on whether or not oral cancer screenings are effective or necessary. There are those who stand by the idea that only those at risk of oral cancer need to have a screening performed. While it’s true that there is little evidence indicating that oral cancer screening actually prevents death from this condition, one thing remains true. Oral cancer treatment is significantly more effective when the lesions are identified earlier than later. Either way, there is no additional cost for this screening.
During your oral exam, the dentist is checking to see if they see any indicators of oral cancer. This is in addition to the other oral health concerns such as tooth decay and gingivitis. If oral cancer lesions are caught early, your medical specialist may be able to easily remove them.
While the exact causes of oral cancer are not well known, there are things that are associated with increased risk.
- Tobacco Use – Chew, cigarettes, snuff, cigars, pipe tobacco, and other tobacco types all are associated with an increased risk of oral cancer.
- Alcohol Use – Risks of oral cancer increase in those who overindulge in alcohol.
- Sun Exposure – Spending too much time in the sun can result in heightened risks of lip cancer, a form of oral cancer.
Recent statistics have identified a rising trend of oral cancer in the past decade. While the reason for this is still being investigated, the Human Papillomavirus is a primary suspect. If you’re wondering about your risk of developing oral cancer, be certain that you speak to your medical professional.
What Happens When Oral Cancer Is Suspected?
If your dentist identifies signs that indicate oral cancer may be present, they’ll direct you to your medical professional for testing. While the oral cavity may develop sores from time to time, cancer is rarely the reason for them. As your dentist can’t identify oral cancer on sight alone, they’ll arrange for other tests when it’s suspected.
These tests will be aimed at identifying the underlying cause of the sore or lesion. In almost every case cancer will be ruled out. If there is reason to believe that the sore is cancer, your medical professional may order a biopsy. This procedure takes a small sample of tissue to check for signs of cancer.
If you have a sore that appeared in your mouth and are concerned about what it may be, call your dentist today! They’ll perform a thorough exam and set your mind at ease.