When was the last time you visited the dentist? If it’s been more than six months, you’re not alone. Most people don’t manage to make it into the office as often as they should. Unfortunately, what they often don’t realize is that these appointments are about more than just checking for cavities. When you skip your routine checkups and cleanings, you’re also missing out on the examinations that could catch the disease that is reported to kill one American every hour, every single day of the year. We’re talking about oral cancer — keep reading to find out more.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is cancer of the cheeks, lips, tongue, gums, or hard/soft palate of the mouth. It has long been associated with smoking and tobacco, as the vast majority of people with oral cancer also smoke. However, human papillomavirus (HPV) is also very closely linked to oral cancer. Given the rise of HPV for younger people, oral cancer diagnoses are increasing even as those of smoking and tobacco use decline in the United States.
Early Detection Is Vital
Catching oral cancer early can drastically improve the 5-year survival rate after diagnosis. This is why visits to your dentist are so important, as it allows us to detect suspicious areas almost as soon as they develop. In addition to visiting your dentist regularly, you should also make yourself aware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer. These include:
- Lesions that do not heal after two weeks or more
- Bumps or lumps in the soft tissue
- Asymmetry of the face
- Change in the tone of voice
- Difficulty swallowing
- The sensation that something is caught in the throat
- Other irregularities in the hard or soft oral tissue
Oral Cancer Screenings Can Save Your Life
An oral cancer screening can be performed within minutes at the end of a regularly-scheduled checkup and cleaning. During this quick, painless exam, your dentist is looking out for the warning signs we listed above. If anything unusual is discovered, we can provide professional advice to help you get the follow-up care you need as soon as possible. For a lesion, that may mean a biopsy. Something less worrisome may just require close monitoring.
With all of this in mind, we’d like to ask — when was your last visit to the dentist? If it’s been more than six months, don’t forget that you’re missing out on a lot more than cavity prevention when you skip these appointments. In fact, scheduling an appointment this month could save your life — literally!
Meet the Practice
The Darby Creek Dental team offers comprehensive dental care from the comfort of a state-of-the-art dental practice. If you would like to discuss oral cancer or find out how you can get screened, you are invited to contact the office today at 937-644-8822.