There are quite a few things you should remember to have your dentist do with every visit. You want to have your teeth checked for cavities and decay. You want a professional cleaning to help prevent these complications from occurring in the first place. Most importantly, but often overlooked, you should have your dentist screen you for oral cancer.
Why An Oral Cancer Screening Is Important
As with any type of cancer, early detection can greatly increase a sufferer’s chances of fully recovering. For this reason it’s crucial that you are regularly screened and the possibility of oral cancer is ruled out. Some people are at a higher risk for oral cancer. You should disclose any characteristics that you have that raise your risk with your dentist. Dentists know to treat high-risk patients differently, namely by increasing the number or oral screenings. You could be at higher risk for oral cancer if you:
Use any sort of tobacco. This includes smoking and chewing it.
Consume alcohol excessively.
Are regularly exposed to the sun.
Have a history of oral cancer in your family.
Have had oral cancer before.
A quarter of all oral cancer cases occur in people who have never smoked and only occasionally drink alcohol. For this reason no one is exempt from regular screenings. Men are more than twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer.
A screening can consist of a number of different procedures. It can be as simple as your dentist putting on a pair of gloves and examining, and feeling your mouth for any abnormal sores or wounds. If you yourself observe an abnormal or persistent mouth sore (especially one that bleeds) then you should consult your dentist who can decide whether or not further testing must be done. If you or your dentist come across a sore that is worrisome a sample of the cells must be biopsied to determine whether or not the sore is cancerous. The majority of mouth sores are harmless and resolve themselves within a week. Other types of oral cancer screenings include:
Using a dye to highlight abnormal cells. This procedure requires you to rinse your mouth with a dye before your dentist examines you. When your dentist looks into your mouth any abnormal cells should be a different color and easily recognizable. The dye does not distinguish between cancerous and noncancerous cells, so a biopsy would still be necessary.
Using a light to highlight abnormal cells. During this type of screening your dentist may employ the use of a special type of light that makes abnormal cells appear white and healthy cells appear black. While this can help make it a little clearer, this type of screening hasn’t exhibited much more benefit than a regular oral screening.
A good dentist should bring up oral screenings with you, but if yours fail to do so, don’t hesitate to bring it up yourself! Ask your dentist what sort of screenings they offer and if you are particularly at risk for oral cancer. Call A Beautiful Smile At Lake Pointe today and schedule an appointment.