Oral cancer is on the rise, particularly among young people who may not meet the typical criteria or risk factors that have been historically associated with oral cancer. This type of cancer is especially dangerous because it is often not detected until it is too late.
As a part of your routine care, your Agave Dental dentist and dental hygienists will perform a comprehensive oral cancer screening at every single dental visit. This screening will include:
- Palpation of the lymph nodes of the head and neck.
- Visual examination of the head and neck
- Evaluation of the temporomandibular (TMJ) joint
- Palpation of the tongue, lips, cheeks, floor of the mouth, salivary glands, and gingiva (gum tissue)
- Visual examination of the intra-oral tissues including soft palate and tonsils
The most common location for oral cancer lesions to appear is the floor of the mouth and the sides of the tongue.
If we do happen to find a suspicious lesion, your Agave Dental dentist will refer to you an oral surgeon for further evaluation and, possibly, a biopsy. We take your health very seriously at Agave Dental. If you ever develop a sore that lasts longer than two weeks, call us for an evaluation, and we will see you as soon as possible.
While it’s possible for oral cancer to develop in a person who doesn’t have any identifiable risk factors (which is why we examine every patient at every visit), certain habits and conditions can increase your risk of developing oral cancer. These include:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Regular use of alcohol (when alcohol and tobacco use are combined, your risk for developing oral cancer significantly increases)
- Human papilloma virus, or HPV. This virus, which is sexually transmitted, is the leading cause of oral cancer among young people and the culprit behind the sharp increase in oral cancer cases.
- A family history of cancer
- Excess sun exposure
Not all cases of oral cancer are preventable, but there are reasonable steps that you can take to reduce your risk:
- Don’t smoke or chew tobacco. If you currently smoke or chew, talk to us for advice and support for quitting.
- Reduce your alcohol use.
- Use sunscreen on all exposed skin including your face and neck. Apply a lip balm with SPF-50 or above. You can get sunburned even when it’s cloudy.
- Get tested for HPV. Talk to us about ways to lower your risk of getting this virus.
- Visit our office regularly for check-ups and examinations.
- Notify us immediately of any lesions or sores that don’t heal within two weeks.