Have you been reluctant to go to the dentist’s office due to fear of discomfort, or just feeling that your tooth brushing routine should be adequate to keep your teeth and gums in good shape, or maybe you just don’t want to hear the hygienist point out to you that you need to floss your teeth more often?
An appointment for a cleaning with a dental hygienist will not just remove excessive buildup of plaque and tartar from your teeth, but during a thorough dental examination of the inside and outside of your mouth, face and neck the dentist will not only diagnose cavities and gum disease, but will also look for hard and soft tissue disease, including cysts, tumors, and oral cancer. Swelling and discoloration of tissue, velvety white or red patches in the mouth, persistent sores that bleed easily and do not heal within two weeks, pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck, hoarseness or a chronic sore throat may indicate a serious condition.
Men over the age of 50 face the greatest risk, twice the risk of developing oral cancer as women. Smokers of cigarettes, cigars and pipes are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than nonsmokers, and users of dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco products or 50 times more likely to develop cancers of the lining of the lips, cheeks, and gums. Unfortunately, not all baseball players are doing the right thing and serve as good role models to our kids. As parents, we need to inform them of the dangers of smokeless tobacco. Additional risk factors are excessive consumption of alcohol, family history of cancer, and excessive sun exposure.
Early detection improves the chance of successful treatment. Therefore, see your dentist regularly. The American Cancer Society recommends cancer screening every 3 years for persons over age 20 and annually for those over age 40.