There are so many good reasons to visit our dentist’s office regularly. But this one tops the list: preventing and detecting oral cancer.
You may not think of your routine dental visits as cancer screening tests, but they are. Dr. Davis and his dental hygienists are trained to examine your mouth, tongue, and surrounding tissue as part of your dental cleaning appointment. They have an eye for finding pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions in their early stages of growth. And early? That’s a good thing!
Oral Cancer Screening
Since oral cancers occur in people who have no risk factors at all, screening is important for everyone. A thorough oral cancer screening exam every six months is your best line of defense for the prevention of and early detection of cancers in the mouth.
It hasn’t always been done. We used to visit our dentists regularly to get our teeth cleaned, be examined for cavities, and receive instruction on how to brush and floss better. But now our dental hygienists and dentists examine and feel our faces, necks, lips, mouths, tongues, thyroid glands, salivary glands, and lymph nodes looking for abnormalities, too.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
So what abnormalities or signs are Dr. Davis and your dental hygienist looking for?
- Sores that bleed easily or do not heal
- Oral tissues that have changed in color
- Lumps or thickening on the skin lining the inside of your mouth
- Experiences of pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in your mouth or on your lips
- Chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your jaw or tongue is difficult
- BRONJ (Bisphosphonate Related Osteonecrosis of the Jaw)
- Patches in your mouth that are red or white
- A chronic sore throat or hoarseness
It’s important for you to know what they are looking for as well. Then each time you visit, you can answer this question intelligently, “Are there any changes in your health history or any concerns we should know about?”
If you are experiencing any of these potential signs of cancerous conditions, don’t be alarmed. But do schedule an appointment with our dental office for further investigation.
Risk Factors that Lead to Oral Cancer
Who is at a higher risk for developing oral cancers?
- Those who use smokeless tobacco
- People who drink alcohol
- Sexually active people with high numbers of sexual partners
- Young people who experience their first sexual encounter at an early age (Learn more about HPV and cancer)
- Those who have skin cancer or melanoma
It’s not uncommon to have what looks like a pre-cancerous condition in your mouth. Canker sores (herpes simplex), wounds from accidentally biting the inside of your cheek, or sore spots caused by an appliance or denture that fits poorly, all look similar to oral cancer. Any condition that does not heal on its own completely within a two-week period, with or without treatment should be examined right away.
If your oral condition looks questionable, Dr. Davis will refer you to an Oral Pathologist and a biopsy will be taken. A biopsy is the only way to definitely diagnose what is happening on the cellular level.
Be Proactive with Oral Care
Your mouth is one of your body’s most important early warning systems. And most of the questionable conditions associated with the mouth are benign and non-cancerous. But we urge you to “play it safe.” Remember, detection of pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions in their early stages of growth is key for complete recovery. Don’t ignore suspicious lumps or sores.
Davis Dental is your first line of defense in early detection of oral cancer. So schedule and keep your routine dental checkups. Call Davis Dental at (307) 634-3488 today. And if you’re putting yourself at high risk for developing cancer, make positive health changes STAT.
Quality Dental Care for Your Whole Family
3249 Sparks Road
Cheyenne, WY 82001
Open Monday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm