Regular dental check-ups are essential to keep your teeth and gums healthy and prevent or catch dental issues before they turn into major problems. But you may not be aware of the important role that regular dental examinations play in the detection of oral cancer. Unfortunately, every year around 250 New Zealanders are diagnosed with oral cancer, which includes mouth cancer, tongue cancer, throat cancer and jaw cancer.
Part of a regular dental check-up is to look for any signs of oral cancer. During the examination, your Dentist thoroughly checks your gums, lips, tongue, inside of your cheeks, and the roof and floor of your mouth. They are looking for any abnormalities that could potentially be a cause for concern and warrant further investigation. These could be anything from a sore that hasn’t healed, a lump or swelling, or a patch that is discoloured or rough. Other symptoms that could be cause for concern are tenderness, numbness, difficulty chewing or swallowing, a change in the way your teeth bite together, or trouble moving your tongue or jaw. Tell your Dentist about any differences you have noticed or anything that is concerning you, regardless of how minor it may seem.
Oral cancer affects twice as many men as women, and is most prevalent in people aged 40 years and over. Although most cases are linked to tobacco and alcohol use, sun exposure and poor diet, anyone can be affected by it. Your Dentist will take into account your medical history and risk factors, and based on these may recommend more frequent dental appointments to ensure your oral health is adequately monitored.
As is the case with other forms of cancer, early detection plays a key role in the chance of treatment being successful. You may think you would know if you had a problem in your mouth, but in the early stages unfortunately it is rare for oral cancer to cause pain or other noticeable symptoms. This is why it can go undetected for a long time, and why your Dentist is in the best possible position to spot any abnormalities at your regular dental check-ups.
While your Dentist can identify suspicious issues in your mouth during a dental examination, note that it is not possible for them to diagnose cancer. Official diagnosis is necessary through a biopsy procedure.
Regular dental examinations can uncover many minor issues that would otherwise turn into major problems if not caught early. Your Dentist is the complete oral health expert you can rely on.
If you have not seen your Dentist lately, or have any concerns about your oral health, contact us today to make an appointment. We are here to help.