A Checkup is not just for Teeth and Gums

If you haven’t seen your dentist in quite some time, your teeth, and gums aren’t the only thing that could be suffering. During your regular checkup, your dentist will also conduct an oral cancer screening to check for any irregularities in your oral cavity.

When you schedule an appointment with your dentist, an oral cancer screening will be conducted either before or after your general checkup. According to the American Dental Association, everyone should have an oral cancer screening, as oral cancer isn’t just reserved for smokers and people over the age of 55 anymore. Thanks to HPV, or the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, the American Cancer Society is seeing an increase in oral and throat cancer in young people.

During your oral cancer screening, your dentist will ask you about your family history to determine if any type of cancer runs in your family. Your dentist will also ask you if you have been having trouble swallowing lately or have been hoarse for the past couple of weeks. During your oral cancer screening question session, your dentist will ask if you have persistent earaches, painless, small lumps on the sides of your neck or if you have difficulty moving your tongue or speaking.

After the question and answer session, your dentist will carefully examine your mouth cavity including your tongue looking for anything suspicious such as white or red patches. Your dentist will also check for sores while feeling the mouth tissue for lumps. Your neck and head will also be examined carefully.

If anything suspicious is found, a biopsy or skin sample may be taken so that it can be sent off to a pathology lab for further investigation.

Every year oral cancer kills over 42 million people in the United States, but can be prevented with good oral hygiene habits and regular oral cancer screenings.

Oral cancer risks include tobacco and alcohol use, HPV infection exposure and too much sun, especially on the lips.

You can help prevent oral cancer by kicking the tobacco habit. In fact, recent studies indicate that you will cut your oral cancer risk by as much as 50 percent if you stop using tobacco. Other ways to prevent oral cancer include limiting your alcohol intake and avoiding the HPV infection by using condoms. Stay out of the sun and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and you will be well on your way to preventing oral cancer.

For more information regarding oral cancer screenings, schedule an appointment with your dentist today.