Thanks to public awareness efforts, many people realize how important it is to screen for various types of cancer. Colonoscopies, mammograms and prostate exams are all routine procedures that many people wouldn’t dream of neglecting. You may not know it, but oral cancer screenings are just as important!
As a family dentist in Concord, we know that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. To help spread the word, we wrote a blog to explain the risk factors for oral cancer, the best way to get screened, and what a screening might look like. The good news is that it’s easier than you might think – learn more today!
What Are the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?
Sadly, an estimated 50,000 people will be diagnosed with this disease this year. But before we discuss the risk factors, it’s important to understand that even people without the usual risk factors are being diagnosed more frequently than ever before.
That means that screenings are still important, even if you don’t fall into one of these categories!
- Age – As with all cancers, the risk for oral cancer increases with age.
- Tobacco – Both smoking and chewing tobacco adversely affect the tissues in the oral cavity.
- Heavy Alcohol Use – Heavy drinking can increase the risk, especially if it’s accompanied by tobacco use.
- Sun Exposure – The lip area is a common spot for a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Lip protection with SPF is always recommended if you’ll be spending much time in the sun.
What’s the Best Way to Get Screened?
Oral cancer screenings are included in your dental visits, so the best way to get them is to simply see your dentist every six months for a checkup!
Since most people don’t routinely examine the inside of their mouths, the dental community recognizes the importance of being able to thoroughly check these tissues twice a year for patients.
What Can You Expect From an Oral Cancer Screening?
A screening only takes about 60 seconds. Every dentist and hygienist has their own way of doing these screenings, but they’ll always visually examine the same basic areas:
- Back of the throat
- Under the tongue
- Sides of the tongue
- Inside of the cheeks and lips
- The outside of the lips
Your practitioner will be looking at these areas for any lumps, bumps or lesions. Having said that, there are many examples of conditions like canker sores or cold sores that aren’t cancer – so don’t panic if you find something! Your family dentist in Concord is well trained to distinguish between normal and abnormal conditions.
Remember, early detection is key with any type of cancer. When it comes to oral cancer, screenings are easier than ever!
About the Author
All of the dentists at Generations Dental Care understand the importance of oral cancer screenings at every checkup. They want to make sure all of their patients lead long and happy lives, which means more than making sure their teeth and gums alone are healthy! If you have any questions, they can be reached via their website or at (603) 225-6331.