When we think about dental visits, we usually think of regular check-ups or dental and cosmetic fix-ups. Rare is the occasion where we find ourselves thinking about dental appointments as prevention for oral cancer. I for one didn’t see it in that way; however, our dentist does more than care for the health our teeth. They care for our overall oral health.
Dentists are the first line of defense every time we go for our annual visits. They are the medical professionals who have a clear opportunity of examining our mouth. After all, they are the ones who not only fix our smile but ensure we both do what we can to maintain our dental and oral health.
In general, dental check-ups are essential because of what they provide. They…
- Check your teeth, gums, tongue, and throat mainly your mouth.
- Assess your teeth and gums through x-rays, looking for signs of gum disease or other medical problems, visually check for tooth decay and damage fillings, and your bite.
- Professionally clean your teeth by removing plaque build-up and tartar, floss your teeth, polish your teeth, and recommend other hygiene techniques.
- Examine the joints in your jaws, your head and neck, and lymph nodes.
The dentist does more than fix dental problems they can examine and diagnose problems that aren’t visible to keep an eye on it or begin treatment. The dentist can even determine if there have been damages caused by our bad habits which we may not notice. Our dentist is there to examine and be a resource to helping us achieve good oral hygiene and conditions, we all want to keep our original teeth as we age.
Oral cancer is a disease we often don’t think of but should. Oral cancer screenings are an essential part of our dental check-ups, and it’s a screening we should get when we visit our dentist.
Divided into two categories, the oral cavity and the oropharynx (middle region of the throat), oral cancer is usually detected when it is in its late development which is why visiting your dentist can help identify early stages of oral cancer. That’s not to say your dentist will know automatically its cancerous. As most medical procedures go, your dentist will refer you to get tested before determining the diagnosis.
One of the dangerous of oral cancer is as a patient early stage symptoms might not be detected, and it can flourish without our notice. During your dental visits, your dentist will be looking for red or white patches, sores that bleed or don’t heal, thick or hard lumps, or a crusted area. Even though your dentist will be examining your mouth, there are symptoms we can associate with oral cancer we want to share with our dentist. Symptoms such as,
- Sore or irritation that persists
- Red or white patches
- Pain, tenderness, and numbness in the mouth and lips
- Hard lumps or crusted areas
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Shift or change in bite or teeth
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms or have a sore throat, let your dentist know. It’s better to express concerns you might have than wait until they progress or persist.
Like most illness, there are risk factors which play some role in the risks of developing oral cancer. We don’t like to think of the risks especially if we can have control over it. So what are some of the risks we should consider?
- Men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women.
- Smokers (cigarettes, pipes, and cigars) and excessive alcoholic drinkers over 50 are at risk.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
- Prolong periods in the sun causes lip cancer.
- Low diet in fruits and vegetables.
- Having had oral cancer puts you at risk of developing it.
We want to take measures to ensure our oral health. How can we do that? Well, as mentioned above, we want to be aware of our risks. If we smoke, drink, or not eating a balanced diet, we want to take the conscious decision of changing our habits to decrease our chances.
If you haven’t visited the dentist, what are you waiting for? Our dentist is our first line of defense when it comes to our oral health. They provide us with the dental care we need in addition to providing us with the knowledge and resources we need to care for our teeth at home. They are dental professionals who are suited to care and diagnose our oral conditions when we can’t see or show symptoms. If you haven’t seen your dentist, don’t wait, fill out our appointment form or call us at 801-747-8100 to make an appointment.
For reference points and more information:
Oral Cancer Facts, The Oral Cancer Foundation
Detecting Oral Cancer, American Dental Association
Oral Cancer, American Dental Association