Did you know that one person in the United States dies every hour of every day from oral cancer? Nearly 53,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with it this year, but only about 57 percent of them will likely still be alive five years from now. So what can help stop this deadly disease? At every dental checkup and cleaning appointment, your dentist in Chesterfield performs an important task that can actually save your life—an oral cancer screening. Keep reading to learn more about this service and why you need to take advantage of it.
What is the dentist looking for in an oral cancer screening?
During an oral cancer screening, which only takes a few minutes, your dentist looks for the signs of oral cancer, which include the following:
- Patches of red, white, or speckled tissue in the mouth, particularly in the back.
- Lip or mouth sores that don’t heal even after two weeks.
- Tongue numbness.
- Loose teeth.
- Areas where the tissue is thicker than in others.
- Bumps or lumps in the mouth, neck, or jaw.
If they notice these symptoms or something of concern, they will refer you to a doctor for additional diagnostic testing.
How does the dentist perform an oral cancer screening?
Unlike some screenings for other cancers, oral cancer screenings are completely painless and non-invasive. In fact, you may have had it done at your last dental checkup appointment without even knowing it. Your dentist visually examines the inside of your mouth, focusing on the gums, hard and soft tissues, and tongue. If necessary, they may move your tongue out of the way for a better view of the back of your mouth, where oral cancer symptoms often first manifest. Then, they gently feel your jaw, neck, and throat for any suspicious masses.
Why is getting an oral cancer screening often so important?
For professionals, oral cancer isn’t terribly difficult to spot, but many patients don’t recognize the early signs of oral cancer on their own. In fact, that’s the main reason why oral cancer has such a high mortality rate. When oral cancer is detected and treated early on, the chances of survival jump up to 90 percent. By having an oral cancer screening at least once a year, but most likely every six months with your routine dental visit, you increase the likelihood of discovering oral cancer before it can spread and become more difficult to overcome.
It is worth the few minutes it takes to complete an oral cancer screening. After all, it could be the difference between life and death. If it’s been a significant amount of time since your last dental checkup, take the opportunity now to get back on track and have this necessary screening. At the least, you can enjoy more peace of mind about your health, and at the most, you can get treatment sooner that can give you many more years of life ahead.
About the Author
Dr. Jeff Yenzer has over 15 years of experience in the dental field. After graduating from the University of Missouri in Kansas City for his dental degree, he completed advanced training in endodontics, cosmetic dentistry, and implant dentistry. In every procedure, he strives to deliver quality dental care that causes virtually no pain for each patient. To schedule an appointment with him, you can call
(636) 778-3019 or click here.