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The Importance of Oral Cancer Screening

Your overall health is affected by your oral health, which is why it’s imperative to maintain an excellent relationship with your dentist. While cavities, plaque, and gum disease are disturbing issues you might experience throughout life if you’re not careful with your oral health, you also run the risk of developing something called oral cancer. It’s dangerous, and it could have a prolonged negative effect on your health. Screening for oral health is available to anyone who requests it, and it’s also recommended by many dentists who notice specific issues within a patient’s mouth. Before we tell you why it’s so important to ask for an oral cancer screening, it’s important to understand what it is.

What is Oral Cancer?

All cancer is caused by an overgrowth of cells that damage the tissue located in the body. Each form of cancer is danger, and some are deadly. Oral cancer isn’t typically as devastating as other forms of cancer, and it’s not always easy to tell you’re suffering from this form of cancer. It often appears as a bump or a sore in your mouth. You’ll assume it’s nothing. You might assume you bit the inside of your lip or cheek, or you had an allergic reaction of some sort. You’ll assume it’s a sore that will go away in a few days. It won’t. When it doesn’t go away after a few days or weeks, you’ll call your dentist worried about infections and other issues, but few people ever worry that their issue might be cancer-related.

Oral cancer can occur anywhere in or around the mouth:

  •   Tongue
  •   Lips
  •   Cheeks
  •   Floor of the mouth
  •   Top of the mouth
  •   Sinuses
  •   Hard palate
  •   Soft palate
  •   Throat

If oral cancer is not detected quickly and treated immediately, it can kill you. This is why it’s imperative you see your dentist regularly. Six month visits for cleanings and dental check-ups can make the difference between life and death. Going too long with an appointment can cost you your life, which isn’t something many people are willing to risk. There are several more reasons it’s beneficial to you to have your dentist perform an oral cancer screening.

You’re Experiencing Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

The signs and symptoms of oral cancer typically mean it’s already developed and you’re running out of time to treat it before it’s too late. The signs are usually evident, and everyone who has one or more of the signs of oral cancer must call the dentist right away.

  •   Velvety white patches in the mouth
  •   Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  •   Swelling, lumps, bumps, spots, in or around the mouth and/or lips
  •   Numbness without explanation in the mouth or neck area
  •   Sores on the neck, face, or mouth that hurt and bleed, but don’t heal
  •   The feeling that something is stuck in your throat that doesn’t go away
  •   Ear pain
  •   Sore throat that becomes chronic
  •   Sudden weight loss

Sometimes the issue is something entirely unrelated, and sometimes it’s oral cancer. Any of these symptoms warrant a visit to the dentist to request an oral cancer screening.

Best of all - It’s Free for Our Patients

If you’re at the dentist for a regularly scheduled check-up or cleaning, all you have to do is ask your dentist to perform an oral health screening. It’s free for all patients who ask during these routine visits. What more do you need to request this type of screening? When your life can be saved thanks to a free service that takes only a few moments of your time while you’re already in the office visiting the dentist, it’s entirely worth it.

The only time oral cancer screenings are not free is when there are follow-up appointments to go over the results if they appear worrisome to your dentist. At this point, however, the cost is not as important as getting to the bottom of the issue and coming up with a diagnosis, treatment program, and a plan to get through this diagnosis.

If You Are Someone With an Increased Risk of Oral Cancer

Not everyone will develop oral cancer, and not everyone with an increased risk of oral cancer will ever develop it. However, it’s imperative that anyone with an increased risk of oral cancer ask for a screening anytime they’re in the dentist’s office. This is one way to ensure that you’re not developing it as time goes on. Who is at risk? Smokers are more likely to develop oral cancer than most anyone. Someone with a family history of oral cancer is more likely to develop the same oral cancer than a person without a family history of the disease. People who drink heavily are much more likely to have oral cancer than those who don’t. Surpassing the age of 55 makes you more susceptible to becoming an oral cancer patient. Your diet is poor, and you don’t take care of your body. This is one of the leading causes of oral cancer.

Furthermore, anyone who has been diagnosed with oral cancer in the past has an increased risk of developing it more than once. Keep those dental appointments, go to them, and always ask for the screening. The simple truth is that it’s always better to be safe than it is to be sorry where your health is concerned.

Oral cancer screening is simple, and it’s free. It’s also helpful, because those who ask for an oral cancer screening are 20% more likely to be diagnosed early enough to make survival easier. The five-years survival rate for oral cancer patients is only 60%, so adding that additional 20% is worth it for most. Call your dentist to discuss an oral cancer screening, or ask the next time you’re in the dentist’s office. Patients who want to have their mouths checked and make their health a priority are always impressive to dentists and those who work in the dental profession.