In regards to dental and oral health, many individuals continue to make decisions under the premise that regular dental visits are only for cleaning teeth, as well as detecting and filling cavities. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a large number of patients skipping regular checkups and avoiding the dentist altogether. In reality, however, general dentistry involves analysis and detection of a wide-variety of dental health condition, including oral cancer. As reported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, early detection and treatment of oral cancer will dramatically reduce the number of related deaths.
While risk factors for developing oral cancer include age, tobacco use, consumption of alcohol, diet, exposure to sun, and human papillomavirus (HPV), oral cancer can affect anyone. Aside from considering one’s health history, dentists may look for the following during a regular dental checkup:
- Lesions Specifically, there are two types of lesions that are considered a warning sign or precursor to the development of oral cancer—white pasty lesions (leukoplakia) and red lesions (erythroplakia). As a rule, if a lesion manifests in the oral cavity and doesn’t go away within two weeks, it’s important to let your dentist know.
- Thickening of soft tissue in the mouth
- Sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty or soreness when chewing
- Ear Pain
- Numbness (in tongue, jaw, or other areas of mouth or face)
- Swelling of the jaw area
You may recall your dentist examining your neck and throat for lumps or swollen lymph nodes during your visit. As part of an extraoral inspection, dentists check for any asymmetrical distinctions, and they may ask if you are experiencing soreness in a particular area. Special attention is also given to skin in your mouth, including around the lips and under the tongue. Any type of crusting, growths, or color changes are noted and examined further.
Chances are, you have a better understanding of the importance of regular dental examinations. While the above-mentioned risk factors may not apply to you, it’s still important to commit to regular checkups. Given the many complexities surrounding cancer, it could save your life.
As a Top Ten Dentist in Marietta, Dr. Leia Porcaro of Grateful Dental provides comprehensive, high-quality dentistry to patients throughout the metro-Atlanta area. If it’s been some time since you’ve visited dentist, we’d love to serve you. Call Grateful Dental today.