How a Regular Dental Check-Up Could Save Your Life
Most of the time we go to the dentist to check our teeth are in good condition or sort out a troublesome toothache, but a trip to the dentist could provide you with so much more than a sparkling smile and healthy gums. With regards to spotting early signs of oral cancer, a routine dental appointment could actually make the difference between life and death. When you consider that early diagnosis increases the chances of surviving oral cancer from 50 to 90 percent, it’s worth keeping up to date with dental appointments.
About oral cancer
Oral cancer is found in the mouth and throat. The main risk factors for this type of cancer are smoking, drinking excessive amount of alcohol on a regular basis, poor diet and human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. Many people are unaware of the main symptoms of oral cancer and this often means that it goes undiagnosed for a long period of time. This means there is a high risk of cancer spreading to other parts of the body. The most common symptoms of mouth cancer are slow-healing mouth ulcers, unexplained pain in the mouth, red or white patches, lumps and abnormal swelling.
What happens during a check-up?
When you have a dental check-up, it may seem just like your dentist is having a quick glance around your mouth to check there are no glaring problems, but what is actually happening is your dentist is going through an extensive mental checklist. They will check:
- Your teeth
- Your gums
- Your tongue
- The roof of your mouth
- The inside of your cheeks
- Your jaw
Your dentist will look for signs of infections, decay and gum disease as well as performing oral cancer checks and looking for potential orthodontic or oral function problems. They will ask if you’ve experienced any problems such as pain, sensitivity or painful gums. They might also talk to you about your diet, oral hygiene regime and lifestyle choices.
If there are warning signs of oral cancer in your mouth, your dentist will refer you for further tests.
Oral cancer screening
There is no national screening programme for oral cancer, but many dental clinics provide screening tests. Screening is designed to check for potential warning signs of oral cancer before they become noticeable to the patient. The process usually involves the use of a high-tech camera to look around the mouth. Any abnormal cells will be highlighted and the patient can be referred for further tests.
How often should I see my dentist?
Dental check-ups are essential for good oral health, but they can also make a huge difference to your general health and your confidence. Ideally, you should visit your dentist every 6-9 months.
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