Oral Cancer Screenings and Why We Need Them
Why do we need oral cancer screenings?
I figured April would be a great month for this article to come out oral cancer screenings. April, as you may or may not know, is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. See? Pretty apt time for this, eh?
First off, here at our DC dental office we do a bit more than fill teeth. We like to educate our patients about oral health…in all of it’s forms. We love preventative care (regular cleanings, and checkups), removing decay (in the gums or teeth), protecting weakened teeth (with crowns, or fluoride treatments), and a host of other things. One thing, however, often goes unknown about that we dentists and dental offices do: oral cancer screenings. That’s right! We do that too!
Think about it. Of all the different types of doctors out there, which do you think would be the most appropriate type to discover possible cancerous lesions and tumors in the mouth? The podiatrist? I’m being silly, obviously, but you get my point. Dentists would seem the most logical first thought to find possible oral cancer in the mouth. They clean your teeth regularly, so already look in the mouth (hopefully) every 6 months or so. They care for your teeth and gums. They deal with the mouth…all the time. Because of this, we’ve also taken on the “front-line fighting force” against oral cancer.
Oral cancer is, sadly, often discovered in much later stages. It’s often only discovered when the cancer has spread to another location, such as the lymph nodes of the neck. Prognosis at these later stages of discovery is usually much worse than when it’s found in a localized spot in the mouth. This is why dentists are a great first-line defense using oral cancer screenings as their weapon.
Oral cancer can go unnoticed, and cause no pain, which is why it’s one of the more deadly kinds of cancer, killing 1 person every hour, 24 hours a day. I know that’s a pretty grim statistic, but it is factual. Certain life-style choices are can increase the risk of oral cancer as well. Regular drinking and smoking, being older in age, just to name a couple. Some of the early signs of oral cancer are white or red patches, or sores inside the mouth that do not clear up within 2 weeks, lumps or masses in the mouth or throat area, even numbness in the oral/facial area that doesn’t go away.
Find out more about oral cancer at: http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/.
How we can help spot oral cancer…
There are special tools that we can use in our dental office to help with oral cancer screenings, other than simply feeling and looking for symptoms. In our office we can use a special solution that you would rinse your mouth with. This solution makes certain cells in your mouth associated with precancerous or cancerous tumors or lesions, visible (and even emit a certain glow) when a specific light is used.
If you already get regular checkups and cleanings at the dentist office, this would be a great supplement to those appointments to ensure your oral health. The dentist or hygienist can quickly, after your cleaning, perform oral cancer screenings without too much extra time. Who knows, deciding to get this small action done after your dental appointments could be a life saving choice. Feel free to ask the doctor or hygienist to give you a screening after your appointment. This is especially something you should do if you already have increased risk of getting oral cancer.
Check out the website link above for more information.
Stay healthy my friends.