We know how you feel – nobody wants to hear the dreaded “C” word, especially not from the dentist who is poking around in your mouth with sharp tools. But as frightening as the thought of cancer can be, regular oral cancer screens are vital for detecting any abnormalities in their early stages. Forms of oral cancer can be painless in their beginning phases and many of them produce no physical symptoms at all until they spread to other areas of the body. You may have hidden sores or patches in your mouth and throat that you cannot see, which is why it is so important to ensure your dentist is performing an oral cancer check at each comprehensive exam visit. An oral cancer screen can identify possible cancers not only of the mouth, but of the head and throat as well, because these cancers often originate in the oral cavity.
So what will your dentist be looking for during an oral cancer screening? Physical signs and symptoms can include:
- Discolorations in the oral cavity
- Mouth sores, lumps, and patches – especially areas that have been bleeding or non-healing for over two weeks
- Difficulty swallowing, painful chewing, or a shift in bite pattern
- An earache, cough, or sore throat that has persisted for over two weeks
Usually, in the face of oral cancer one or more of these physical signs will be present, but not always. So how can you be ensured a thorough screening if there are no visible symptoms? Here at Boyett Family Dentistry, we are proud to offer VELscope technology as part of our exam. VELscope is noninvasive and painless; it uses a blue light to illuminate the mouth and reveal abnormalities that are invisible to the naked eye.
While anyone over the age of 18 should be regularly screened, certain risk factors can affect your chances of contracting a form of oral cancer:
- A previous oral cancer diagnosis
- Smoking and use of tobacco products
- Heavy alcohol use
- An unhealthy diet
- Prolonged, significant exposure to sunlight
- Age and gender: men over the age of 50 are most at risk
In addition to the above risk factors, the HPV virus has been identified as a growing risk factor for developing oral cancer in young non-smokers. At Boyett Family Dentistry, we offer OralRisk HPV as part of our screening process. This is a genetic test that checks for human papillomavirus.
In 2018 approximately 51,540 people were diagnosed with contract oral or oropharyngeal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Of those infected, an estimated 10,030 people will die. Here at Boyett Family Dentistry, we highly recommend you elect for an oral cancer screening with VELscope technology and OalRisk HPV testing when you see Dr. Boyett for your regular exams. And if you have recently noticed any mouth or throat abnormalities, or believe you may be at high risk for developing oral cancer, call us at 863-294-9200 and make an appointment to see Dr. Boyett for a screening as soon as possible.