Oral Cancer is on the rise. The American Cancer Society predicts that over 54,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2021. However, when it is caught early, oral cancer has a high survival rate. That being said, one of our biggest jobs as a dentist is to screen our patients for oral cancer.
Oral cancer can present in many different ways. Signs of oral cancer can include the following:
- White or gray patches under and around the tongue
- White or gray patches on the inside of the cheek and near the throat
- Growths on the lips, gums, and roof of the mouth
- Lumps around the jawbone and neck area
Therefore, as dentists, when we complete our exam, we are looking for all of these signs. Some dentists are very vocal about explaining exactly what they are doing. I will admit, I am not one of these dentists. Usually, I am too busy talking to the patient to explain everything I’m doing. It is easy to forget that as a patient you have no idea what I’m doing when I grab your tongue and look around. However, this part of the exam is as important as the part of the exam where we look at your teeth and x-rays.
It is also important to remember that there are a few risk factors that make you more susceptible to oral cancer. Family history or a history of smoking or alcohol abuse can increase your chances of getting oral cancer. So please make sure you tell your dentist about any risk factors that you have.
I hope this clears up why dentists do weird things during your exam, besides looking at your teeth, that you might not understand. We are trying our best to keep you safe. Remember that by seeing your dentist regularly and monitoring yourself in between exams, you can keep yourself safe and we can catch any problems before they become serious. So, if it has been awhile since your last visit, don’t wait! Schedule today!