When was the last time you went to your dentist in Orange Park for your checkup? Believe it or not, your appointment with the dentist every six months does so much more than give you clean teeth. One component of this routine visit is an oral cancer screening. But, you may be wondering, is that screening really necessary? Here are five reasons why you need to get an oral cancer screening from your dentist on a regular basis.
Oral cancer doesn’t just affect those who smoke and drink.
Although tobacco use and heavy drinking of alcohol are major risk factors for oral cancer, it also can impact those who may be healthy otherwise. Other causes include prolonged sun exposure on the lips and exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV). Even secondhand smoke is a potential cause for oral cancer. It’s important to take oral cancer seriously, especially if these risk factors apply to you.
Oral cancer has a high mortality rate.
In general, only about 57 percent of oral cancer patients live to the five-year mark after diagnosis. To put that into perspective, out of the 53,000 people who are estimated to be newly diagnosed in 2019, only 30,210 of them will likely be alive in five years. In other words, one person dies from oral cancer every hour every day in the United States. These sad facts show the devastation oral cancer can cause when it goes undetected.
Some symptoms of oral cancer are difficult to spot on your own.
Oral cancer manifests in many ways. Some are easier to recognize by yourself than others, including the following:
- Difficulty or pain in chewing or swallowing.
- Numbness in the tongue.
- Sores on your lips or in the mouth that don’t heal after two weeks.
- Loose teeth.
If you experience these symptoms, contact your dentist in Orange Park right away for an evaluation.
However, there are symptoms that can be challenging to find on your own for two reasons: your view of your own mouth is limited and you don’t have the advanced training to recognize legitimate indications of oral cancer. Some of these trickier symptoms include the following:
- Red, white, or speckled patches of tissue in your mouth, particularly in the back near the tonsils.
- Areas of thickened tissue.
- Lumps or bumps in the mouth, neck, and jaw.
That’s why having oral cancer screenings with an experienced dental professional on a regular basis is so important.
Oral cancer screenings are quick and painless.
Compared to many other cancer screenings, such as mammograms, oral cancer screenings do not entail any discomfort and require only a short amount of time at your checkup appointment. It consists of a visual exam of the inside of your mouth and a gentle tactile exam of your jaw, chin, and neck. It’s that simple! Within minutes, you’re done with an important screening that could save your life.
Early detection increases your odds of survival.
The mortality rate for oral cancer is high because it is often found during the later stages of development, when it is too late to successfully treat and overcome. On the other hand, for patients whose oral cancer is diagnosed and treated earlier, their survival rate jumps up to 90 percent. By getting an oral cancer screening on a regular basis, you increase the chances of finding oral cancer sooner and therefore raise the odds of beating it.
In the end, regardless of the outcome, getting an oral cancer screening is worth the time. If your dentist doesn’t find signs of oral cancer, you can rest a little easier about your health. But if they do, hopefully you’ll get faster diagnosis and treatment, giving you many more years of life ahead of you. Don’t delay going to the dentist for your checkup. It could save your life!
About the Author
Dr. Natasha Patel has many years of dental experience and graduated from the prestigious Nova Southeastern University School of Dental Medicine. In addition to her private practice at Kind Care Dentistry, she volunteers her services to underprivileged tribes and children at a hospital in Dang, India. No matter the patient she’s treating, she provides expert dental care with compassion, helping them feel comfortable and enjoy oral health. To make an appointment with her, call (904) 278-9011 or click here.