Why do we go to the dentist? To help keep our teeth clean and avoid cavities, right? While these are certainly a big part of your dental care, there is one aspect of regular visits that most people never think about: oral cancer screenings. Routinely seeing your dentist in Sacramento is one of the best things you can do to catch oral cancer early, which is the key to successful treatment. Today, we’re going to discuss how you and your dentist can make sure this terrible disease never catches you (or a loved one) off guard.

Oral Cancer by the Numbers

Oral cancer isn’t talked about as often as many other types, but here are a few numbers that should get your attention. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology:

  • About 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year alone
  • Of them, only 50% are expected to survive the next five years
  • About 9,500 people lose their lives to oral cancer every year, which amounts to about one person every hour of every day.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

  • Using smoking/chewing tobacco products
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Having the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Being male (men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women)
  • An unhealthy diet that is rich in sugar
  • Too much sun exposure
  • A genetic predisposition to the disease

However, more and more young, seemingly healthy adults are being diagnosed with the disease despite having none of these risk factors, which is why getting regular oral cancer screenings is more important than ever.

How Your Dentist Can Help

Whenever you visit your dentist, during your regular checkup, they will also perform a brief oral cancer screening, in which they will look for:

  • Persistent oral sores in the mouth that haven’t healed for weeks
  • A noticeably red or white patch of tissue that can be smooth or rough
  • A lump or growth on the neck or face
  • Oral pain that seems to have no dental cause

They will also ask if you constantly have a sore throat or hoarse voice, both of which point towards oral cancer as well.

Should your dentist discover something that causes concern, they can arrange for you to have a biopsy to get a proper diagnosis. When detected early, oral cancer has about an 85% survival rate, but that number drops to about 20% after just a few years. This is why dentists recommend that every adult should have at least one oral cancer screening per year, which is conveniently included as part of every routine checkup.

What to Remember

Oral cancer claims lives every single day, but just by seeing your dentist twice a year, you can help keep yourself protected. And, if you notice any of the signs mentioned above between appointments, be sure to go ahead and contact your dentist so they can help you get the attention you need right away. With your diligence and their help, you can make sure that you have a healthy smile you’ll be able to show off for many years to come.

About the Author

Dr. A. Scott Grivas is a general, restorative, and family dentist in Sacramento. He and his team perform hundreds of oral cancer screenings every year, and they have undoubtedly saved many lives as a result. To learn more about how you can prevent oral cancer from affecting your life, he can be contacted through his website.  

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