April 27, 2019
Oral cancer is a serious illness that strikes 50,000 Americans every year. Fortunately, most cases of oral cancer can be treated successfully if caught early. That’s why every dental exam at our office includes an oral cancer screening in Fairhope. If it has been a while since you saw your dentist, then we urge you to make an appointment soon. The consequences of waiting are too great to risk.
How a Dentist Helps to Diagnose Oral Cancer
The first step in the screening process involves the dentist performing a thorough examination of the patient’s mouth, tongue, palate, throat, lips, and face. Common warning signs of oral cancer include a patch of discolored skin, a sore that doesn’t heal, a bump with no obvious cause, and unexplained bleeding in the mouth. Some symptoms, such as sore throat or ear pain, can mimic problems associated with noncancerous conditions.
If your dentist suspects the presence of oral cancer, then he or she will perform a biopsy, a procedure that removes a small sample of tissue for testing. While scalpels are the traditional tool used, many of today’s dentists use lasers or a small brush instead.
Confirming the presence of oral cancer is the job of a dental lab. Your dentist’s office will share the results of your biopsy with you right away. Prompt treatment is your best option for beating the disease.
Why Your Dentist Is the Best Person to Perform an Oral Cancer Screening
It’s a common misconception that dentists concern themselves only with teeth and gums. In reality, their scope of training includes all types of oral health issues, including the detection of oral cancer.
Of course, you can and should check yourself for signs of the disease. But laypeople may not have the specialized training and keen eye needed to catch the small splotches and other abnormalities that indicate the presence of the condition. A dental examination room is well lit and equipped to perform this important procedure.
Protecting Yourself from Oral Cancer
Regular exams are only part of the picture. You should also take steps to lower your risk for oral cancer in the first place. These should include:
- Avoiding all forms of tobacco. There is no such thing as a safe tobacco product. Your dentist can prescribe medications to help you to live a tobacco-free future.
- Protecting yourself from the sun. Spending plenty of time in the great outdoors is a good way to improve your health. But you should take steps to safeguard yourself from excess solar radiation. This means wearing sunglasses and a hat, using sunscreen, and limiting your time outside. If nothing else, you can head for a cool, shady spot every few minutes.
- Invest in good physical and mental health. This includes exercising, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of rest, and minimizing the effects of stress on your life. A fit, healthy body is better able to ward off cancer and other threats to your well-being.
Don’t let oral cancer catch you unawares. See your dentist in Fairhope for regular screenings and follow the other tips outlined in this post. That’s a great way to enjoy better health, both now and down the road.
About the Author
Huntsville native Dr. Drew Knight is a graduate of UAB Dental School. He’s a proud member of the American Dental Association and the Alabama Dental Association. He performs oral cancer screenings as part of each regular dental appointment. You can reach his office online or by calling (251) 928-0400.
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