As with all healthcare, you are your best advocate. Not all dentist will perform pre-cancer or cancer screenings, so you must be diligent about asking for these screenings and finding a dentist that will make your oral health a priority.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Each year, more than 30,000 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx are diagnosed and over 8,000 deaths due to oral cancer occur. The 5-year survival rate for these cancers is only about 50 percent.” Oral cancer is killing approximately one person per hour, twenty-four hours a day, because early stage oral cancer is asymptomatic, meaning you don’t really feel anything. If detected early, oral cancer can be survived but you need to be aware of changes in your mouth such as your mouth is sore persistently, difficulty swallowing, or a chronic sore throat. If you notice any color or texture changes to the tissue in your mouth or have any lumps in your mouth or neck, especially if they don’t hurt, you need to alert your dental health care provider so they can run a screening test on you. A typical oral screening consists of six steps that a dentist or a dental hygienist can easily perform. The American Dental Society recommends that your dentist check for oral cancer at your twice-yearly check-ups in an effort to enhance early detection.
The first test is done when the dental caregiver uses a gauze pad to wrap around your extended tongue, they can then examine the underside and sides of your tongue to check for any discoloration or lumps. Next the dentist or hygienist should check your cheeks and lips for any lumps, bumps or discolorations that shouldn’t be present. They should also be checking the floor of your mouth by using both hands to feel the interior floor and exterior bottom of your mouth at the same time, feeling for any unusual lumps. This should be followed up by checking the roof of the mouth for any softness to the hard palate, lumps or discoloration. They will then palpitate your neck to check your lymph nodes for any swelling indicating infection. The final step in this process would be to check your tonsils, again looking for discoloration, lumps, or bumps and also to see if there is any unusual enlargement or lack of symmetry, which could indicate a problem in the tonsils.
Many people are under the misconception that only people who smoke or have smoked and the older generation are only ones who will suffer from oral cancer. Quite the contrary, the fastest growing segment of those being diagnosed with oral cancer are young non-smokers. While smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol does increase one’s risk of getting oral cancer, it does not solely discriminate based on these factors. If you are looking for a dentist that will perform regular oral cancer screenings, call Lynn Dental Care today. Dr. Lynn is committed to helping you maintain the best oral health care possible.