Our bodies are susceptible to illness and disease, and our mouths are no exception to this process. Protecting your oral health should be a priority, and an oral cancer screening can keep your health on track as you age. Oral cancer is fast-moving and dangerous, so it’s important to have regular dental checkups to monitor any changes in your mouth, neck, cheeks and tongue. Certain factors put you at higher risk for oral cancer, such as chewing tobacco, smoking and genetics. Find out how to protect yourself from disease with an oral cancer screening!
Why Oral Cancer Screenings Are Performed
To protect yourself from the deadly effects of oral cancer, it’s important that you have a regular oral cancer screening every couple of years. Oral cancer is one of the deadliest and fast-moving cancers that the body can experience, especially since most people don’t notice any symptoms until it’s progressed to its later stages. More than 48,250 people suffer from squamous cell carcinoma in the oral cavity and pharynx each year, with nearly 10,000 people succumbing to the disease. These numbers may seem staggering, but they continue to grow as fewer people receive their oral cancer screenings. Whenever patients do come in after they notice something wrong, most cases of oral cancer are already in the later stages. Although most patients will survive oral cancer, many have to live with life-changing surgical procedures to their lips, mouth, tongue and other areas of the oral cavity, which makes it more difficult to chew, eat and speak. Oral cancer is serious, and because its symptoms are often unnoticeable or seemingly non-threatening, it can be deadly. While having an oral cancer screening doesn’t guarantee that your life will be saved, it will help identify symptoms of cancer early on that are easily treatable, thus helping you avoid future, drastic measures that could affect your life forever.
What To Expect During An Oral Cancer Screening
The oral cancer screening itself is usually a part of a regular dental checkup and lasts around five minutes from start to finish. The dentist will examine your mouth for signs of cancer, such as lesions, before evaluating the areas in and around your mouth, like the tongue and neck. Using gloves, the dentist will feel around in your mouth for lumps that could indicate cancer, and they’ll check for red and white patches and mouth sores. If you wear dentures, the dentist will also have you remove them so that he/she can check the tissues underneath where they normally sit in your mouth. Most oral cancer screenings include an evaluation of the face, including the eyes and nose, along with the lips, tongue and hard and soft palates of the mouth. While it may seem unnecessary to check the eyes or nose for oral cancer, these areas of the body oftentimes exhibit signs of oral cancer with nasal blockages and eye swelling, which can indicate an underlying problem. While you may experience similar symptoms, it doesn’t mean that you have oral cancer, but the dentist will still check for any defects in the case that something is developing.
How To Protect Yourself From Oral Cancer
For some patients, oral cancer is hereditary and can be difficult to avoid. However, many patients develop oral cancer from tobacco use, smoking, drinking alcohol and sun exposure. Oral cancer is a preventable disease if you take the right precautions. To begin, do not use tobacco or smoke cigarettes, if you can. Try to limit alcohol to one drink per day, or cut it out entirely. If you have to be outside during the day, try to avoid the hours between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun is strongest and brightest. Make sure that you wear sunscreen during this time, including lip balm that has SPF 30 or higher. The most common sexually transmitted disease is oral human papillomavirus (HPV), and it can cause cancer in the throat. If you have HPV, make sure to meet with your dentist to have an oral cancer screening to identify any early onset signs of cancer. Additionally, if you notice any unusual changes in your face, such as pain when chewing, hoarseness, bleeding, loose teeth, discolored patches or lumps, meet with a medical professional as soon as possible for an oral cancer screening. These are telltale symptoms of oral cancer and should be addressed immediately. Stay on top of these screenings by meeting with your dentist regularly and by examining your mouth each month with a mirror.
Schedule Your Next Screening With Our Help!
At Mountain Aire Dentistry, your oral health is our top priority. If you’re due for an oral cancer screening or are concerned about any unusual growth or changes in your health, call our office at (303) 731-7755. When it comes to your health, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Call today to make sure that your oral health is on track!