Oral cancer may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your dentist in North Dallas. But more and more dentists are making a point of checking for warning signs of this dangerous condition during routine exams. This makes it all the more important to keep regular dental appointments, not only for your teeth and gums but your overall health as well.
What Does Oral Cancer Have to Do with Dentistry?
It’s a common misconception that dentists only focus on teeth and gums. In reality, your dentist is trained to diagnose a wide range of oral health conditions. This includes knowing how to spot the warning signs of oral cancer. During a routine exam he or she will check your lips, tongue, palate, mouth, face, and throat for sores, bumps, blemishes, and discolorations. All of these may indicate the presence of this serious illness.
What Will Happen If Oral Cancer Is Suspected
If your dentist has cause for concern, then he or she may remove a small portion of tissue for a biopsy. This is a special examination performed by a medical lab. You’ll know the results as soon as possible, saving you from needless waiting and worrying.
If the biopsy finds that cancer is present, then you will be referred to an oncologist for treatment. Cancer therapy has made giant leaps forward in the past few years. Some of the latest advances include targeted drug therapy and immunotherapy, both of which target the disease directly while leaving normal, healthy cells largely untouched.
Not all instances of oral cancer require aggressive intervention. If the disease is in its earliest stages, or if it’s slow-growing, then minor surgery by itself might be the only treatment recommended. Your doctor will work with you to design the right approach for your case.
That’s how many people in the US receive a diagnosis of oral cancer each year. Whether these patients will enjoy long-term recovery depends largely on how early the condition is caught. The sooner it’s diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin. Waiting until the illness reaches an advanced stage can make it very difficult to treat successfully.
What You Can Do Right Now
Oral cancer can strike anyone of any age. Nonetheless, certain groups are at higher risk for the disease. These include:
- Tobacco users: this includes not only those who smoke but people who use snuff or chewing tobacco as well. Your dentist or other healthcare professional can recommend medications that will help you to kick the habit.
- People who spend a lot of time in the sun: there’s a world of benefits to be had from enjoying fresh air and exercise, of course. But it’s important for you to exercise basic precautions such as using sunscreen, wearing a hat, and minimizing your exposure to direct sunlight.
- Illicit drug users: anything that harms your overall health can also increase your risk for oral and other types of cancer. This includes not only illicit drugs but excessive alcohol consumption as well.
Make an appointment to see your dentist soon for an oral cancer screening. It only takes a few minutes to make all the difference in the world to your well-being.
About the Author
Dr. John Grinaldi has been practicing dentistry for more than 20 years. He includes oral cancer screenings as part of a regular dental examination. You can reach his office online or by calling (972) 437-4746.