It’s common knowledge that if you want to have healthy teeth and gums, you need to brush and floss every day as well as regularly see your dentist. However, did you know that your dentist can help protect much more than just your smile? While giving you an exam, your dentist is also keeping an eye out for two distinct types of cancer: oral cancer and skin cancer. In fact, your dentist is one of your most critical partners when it comes to catching certain cancers early.
How can my dentist help me with skin cancer?
It’s pretty easy to understand that your dentist is keeping an eye out for oral cancer, but how can they help with skin cancer? Specifically, they are looking for signs of melanoma, which is one of the most serious kinds of skin cancer.
Despite melanoma being thought of as strictly “skin cancer,” it can actually occur anywhere melanocytes (which is a type of cell that produces melanin) exist in your body, and this includes your skin, heart, and…your mouth.
How does my dentist keep an eye out for cancer?
Most dentists will perform a cancer screening as part of a regular checkup. In addition to looking at your teeth, they’ll also examine your lips, gums, cheeks, roof/floor of the mouth, throat, neck, and face for any signs of cancerous tissues. If they find anything that causes concern, they can arrange for you to get a biopsy in order to get a proper diagnosis.
In the case of oral and skin cancer, early detection is absolutely key to successful treatment. For example, when caught in its initial stages, oral cancer has about an 85% survival rate, but that number drops to about 25% if the disease isn’t detected until a patient has had it for 2-3 years.
How often should my dentist check me for cancer?
Your dentist will actually screen you for cancer at every single appointment, most of the time without you even noticing. This is one of the many reasons most dentists, as well as the American Dental Association, recommend that people should make at least two dental visits per year. Not only are they essential for your oral health, but these checkups could literally be the thing that saves your life.
If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, be sure to schedule an appointment soon. Also, if you notice any symptoms like persistent sores in your mouth, a frequent sore throat or hoarse voice, or you experience trouble swallowing or speaking, be sure to contact your dentist right away.
About the Author
Dr. Masha Kogan has been practicing dentistry for 20 years, 18 of which have been right here in Westport. She uses her dental expertise every day to protect her patients’ oral health as well as safeguard them from various types of cancers. To learn more about the symptoms of oral/skin cancer you should look out for and how your dentist can help, she can be contacted through her website.