Could Going to the Dentist Save Your Life?

  • Jun 19 2017

Is it true that dentists check for certain kinds of cancers during exams?

There was a time when a great number of people would say that going to the dentist was about the worst thing imaginable. Many professions have seen improvement and nowhere is that more evident than in dentistry. Today’s state-of-the-art technology and equipment combined with nearly pain-free methods have changed the opinion of most. In addition, your dentist may be your first line of defense when it comes to early detection for certain types of cancer, which really is the “worst thing imaginable”.

Oral cancer, which can occur in the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses and pharynx, can be life threatening. Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women, and those over 50 are at greatest risk. The key, as with all types of cancer, is early detection. According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for those diagnosed before the cancer has metastasized, which means spread to other parts of the body, is 83%, compared to only 38% in patients diagnosed after it has spread.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

Although roughly 25% of all oral cancers develop in non-smokers and those who only occasionally drink, alcohol and smoking are high risk factors for oral cancer. The most common include:

  • Smoking – smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancers
  • Smokeless tobacco use – those who use dip, snuff and chewing tobacco products are 50 times more likely than non-users to develop cancers, especially of the cheek, gums and lining of the lips
  • Alcohol – heavy drinkers are nearly six times more likely to end up with oral cancer than nondrinkers.
  • Genetics – family history of cancer
  • Time in the sun – excessive sun exposure, especially at a young age can be a contributing factor
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – certain HPV strains increase the risk for cancer of the oropharynx, which is the middle part of the throat including the base of the tongue, tonsils, soft palate and pharynx

One of the reasons it is so important to make those twice-a-year appointments is that your dentist will screen for signs of oral cancer as part of your routine dental exam. While looking for visual signs, such as sores or discolored tissue, your dentist will also feel for lumps or irregularities in your neck, face, head and oral cavity, which is the part of the mouth behind the gums and teeth. Add to that the monitoring for any evidence of gum disease, which can lead to cardiovascular issues, such as heart disease and stroke, and one simple exam has become extremely important.

And we didn’t even get to talk about what your dentist can do for your smile!

Regular dental exams have never been more important. If you are aware of any issues, such as a sore that doesn’t heal, a lump, red or white patches on the inside of the mouth or if it is just time for a visit, please don’t delay calling for an appointment. Dr. Cohen is dedicated to delivering the highest quality of dentistry possible. We offer the latest and most current information and services to our patients with a new state-of-the-art facility in Forest Hills, Queens. Patient comfort, individualized care and complete satisfaction is our priority.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, just call (718) 793-6669.

Categories: General Dentistry