Oral Cancer Screening
Cancer of any type is frightening, but the more we learn about certain types of cancers and seek routine examinations to catch problems early, the better able we are to ensure health and wellness for our patients into the future. Oral cancer, for example, has been researched extensively; with that comes the knowledge that avoiding certain behaviors can decrease the likelihood of developing cancer. With this in mind, routine and preventive dental care is important in preventing and detecting cancer.
Who is at Risk?
While cancer can affect anyone, there are behaviors that increase risk. In particular, extensive tobacco use is a significant catalyst for oral cancer; an estimated 80% of oral cancer cases affect patients who smoke or chew tobacco. Both smoked tobacco and chewed tobacco affect different areas, with cigarettes causing the most harm for the mouth and throat and chewing tobacco affecting the cheeks, lips and gums.
Alcohol can also increase the risk of cancer. Studies indicate that men who drink more than two servings (pints or glasses) a day or women who drink more than one have a significantly higher risk of developing oral cancer than others. When compounded with smoking or chewing tobacco, the likelihood of developing oral cancer increases dramatically. If you are able to kick or curb tobacco and alcohol habits, your risk is minimized.
Several things beyond your control may also have increase chances of developing oral cancer. Genetics, radiation exposure, certain infections, gender, and age can all increase likelihood. Studies show that men are twice as likely to get it, and the vast majority of those who have it are over 55-years-old. People who spend the majority of their time outdoors also have higher risk for lip cancer.
Dental Hygienists: Catching Signs of Oral Cancer Early
Staying on top of biannual dental office visits is an essential part of diagnosing oral cancer early, with dental hygienists acting as the first lines of defense in spotting early warning signs Typically, oral cancer starts as a cluster of small white or red spots. Other warning signs include bleeding sores that do not heal or odd discoloration in certain areas. Some patients may develop lumps or unnatural toughening in spots throughout their mouth or on lips.
At Okamoto, DDS, our dental hygienists are trained to examine your smile for the presence of oral cancer each year. During this inspection, our dental hygienist will ensure that no lesions are present and will also visually examine tissues that include the floor of the mouth, palate, tongue, and tonsils. Our screenings also extend to the neck and thyroid to determine the presence of issues with the lymph nodes.
If any of these problems are detected, fast action by our dental hygienists allows patients to receive appropriate medical attention as quickly as possible, including biopsies, excision of affected tissue, and even chemotherapy. These life-saving examinations and early treatments make all the difference in ensuring that patients are informed about their oral health and can access the most proactive care for their needs.
Talk to our Hygiene Team about Oral Cancer Screenings
The next time you’re due for a teeth cleaning, please feel free to ask our dental hygiene team about when you’re due for an oral cancer screening or what occurs during a preventive examination. If you have noticed any of the symptoms above on your own smile, contact our office as soon as possible for a screening.