Getting more than you bargained in dental care
The next time you visit your dentist, ask about your oral cancer screening – most people receive one during their regular dental checkup but do not realize it, reports the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education.
The dentist checks about 10 places inside and around the mouth, looking for lumps or irregular tissue changes.
Every year, 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer which accounts for roughly 9,000 deaths each year, or three percent of all cancer-caused deaths. “If detected early, oral cancer can be cured,” says Fred Magaziner, DDS, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, “and that is why many dentists make this a part of their routine dental examination for their patients.”
“Often, patients don’t realize the exam is being conducted,” notes Dr. Magaziner, “because it is a quick, comfortable addition to the patient’s regular dental checkup.”
Oral cancer has the lowest survival rate, however, because it is typically painless in its early stages and goes unnoticed by its victim until it spreads, leading to chronic pain and sometimes loss of function before it is diagnosed. In its later stages, it can lead to surgery and facial and oral disfigurement. Surgery can include removal of a portion of the tongue and jaw.
“People can also conduct a self examination,” says Dr. Magaziner, “to look for the signs of oral cancer, including any sore that persists longer than two weeks, a swelling or growth, a lump or sore spot anywhere in or around the mouth or neck, white or red patches in the mouth or on the lips, repeated bleeding from the mouth or throat, difficulty swallowing or persistent hoarseness.”