It is not uncommon to associate a trip to the dentist with scheduled cleanings, instruction on proper flossing, and the occasional tooth cavity filling. You might not realize it, but your dentist and often your hygienist are additionally performing one other very important service. They are diligently scanning for the early signs of oral cancer.
The actual cause of oral cancer is difficult to determine but will involve a mutation of the DNA. Oral cancer is commonly correlated (up to 75% of all occurrences) with a history of smoking and tobacco products. The harmful toxins within tobacco and tobacco containing products, the heat of the smoke, and the byproducts of the burning process are recognized to inflame and cause oral cancer in the mucous membranes of the mouth.
One other high-risk activity correlated with oral cancer is the use of alcohol. Frequent and prolonged exposure to alcohol, especially when joined with cigarettes and other tobacco products may lead to elevated oral cancer risk. The usage of alcohol containing mouthwash is also a risk factor.
Even if you’re not a habitual smoker or drinker, you’re still at risk. Somewhere around 25% of patients who come down with oral cancer don’t have any known risk factors. Consequently, it is important that everyone receive a biannual or yearly oral cancer screening.
Fortunately, you are most likely already receiving these screenings if you see a dentist on a regular basis. Early detection is vital. Usually your hygienist will probably be the initial person to scan for and locate suspicious looking areas. They will inform the dentist who will then perform a more complete assessment.
You want to do your part and inform your dentist about any recent changes in your oral health or atypical sensations in your throat and mouth. Remember to discuss any tenderness, discoloration, sores that won’t heal, or numbness which you have suffered from in the past few weeks or months. Additionally, talk about lumps, any abnormal sensations such as tenderness or the sensation that something is stuck in your throat.
An oral cancer exam usually takes 3 to 5 minutes. The screening generally entails a visual and tactile examination of the inside of your mouth as well as in the areas in your neck and below your chin. Newer technology, such as special light and dyes help make these tests quicker and far more precise. Make it a point to ask your dentist which technology he or she employs and make certain to have a blunt chat about your risk factors.
An innovative tool for the early detection of oral cancer is the Velscope. If you are looking for a dentist Flagstaff has many options to choose from. My favorite Flagstaff dentist includes the Velscope as part of his routine dental examinations.