Ask the Sarasota Dentist – How Does Your Dentist Check For Oral Cancer?
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Oral cancer – or cancer that happens in the mouth – is serious business. Oral cancer can attack the cheeks, the lips, the palate, the tongue, or the periodontal or gum tissue.
But your dentist can check for signs of oral cancer whenever you pay a visit to her or him for your routine dental checkups. Dentists always do a careful examination of the teeth, gums, and mouth while they look for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, or any other abnormality. But while checking for normal dental problems the dentist is also alert to any condition that might include a clue to the presence of potential oral cancer.
What you dentist would see in terms of the signs of oral cancer would be such things as sore places in the mouth, reddish or white spots, or a distinctly different color of tissue in the gum or other parts of the mouth. If a sore place in the mouth bleeds easily, or if you have a tear or lesion in or around the mouth that does not heal as it should, that could be an indicator of oral cancer. There might also be a lump, growth, or rough place in the mouth – or an area of tissue that appears to be eaten away or somehow eroded.
Some patients who have oral cancer first notice it because they have trouble eating or swallowing, or the way that their bites aligns when they close their teeth together changes and does not feel as it should. You should report anything unusual like this to your dentist, just as a precaution. Chances are high that it is nothing to be worried about, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
If he or she finds evidence that might indicate cancer, then a more comprehensive examination and possible laboratory testing can begin. One of the simplest ways to test for potential cancer is to do what dentists call a brush test. They brush against the suspicious looking spot in order to collect some tissue or cells. Then those are sent to a medical lab for further testing and analysis. If the cells in the test sample appear to be cancerous or precancerous, a biopsy can be taken for further investigation – or in some cases the precancerous tissue can all be removed during a dental surgical procedure.
But two of the biggest contributors to oral cancer are smoking and chewing tobacco. Tobacco products are one of the leading causes of cancer, and those who smoke or use other forms of tobacco are at a much higher risk for oral cancer. Even young people such as teenagers who chew tobacco, for example, are at a great risk for oral cancer. Adding to the risk that tobacco products pose is abuse of alcohol, so those who both smoke and drink heavily – or chew tobacco and consume lots of alcohol – are likewise putting themselves into a higher risk category. Avoid those unhealthy habits and it will go a long way toward reduces your chances of oral cancer.
To help further guard against oral cancer, patients should be careful to take care of their oral hygiene on a regular basis and keep their semi-annual dental appointments.