Nobody wants to be diagnosed with cancer, but the earlier it is caught, the better. The old saying “a stitch in time saves nine” is very true when it comes to situations like these. If oral cancer is diagnosed early enough, you are more likely to be treated successfully for it.
In preventive dentistry, patients are regularly screened for oral cancer, which is why it is so important to schedule and attend your six-month checkups with your dentist.
What is preventive dentistry?
Preventive dentistry is, by definition, everything you do to keep your teeth and mouth healthy, preventing issues with decay, gum disease, and other situations. You practice preventive dentistry every time you regularly brush and floss your teeth at home in between appointments. Preventive dentistry also takes place twice a year at your regular cleaning.
During a preventive exam, you can expect the following services:
- Oral exams: We will examine your teeth, gums, and mouth to make sure there are no issues or early signs of cancer, including sores and lesions.
- Thorough cleaning: We use professional tools and the latest technology to give your teeth a deep cleaning. Even regular brushing and flossing will not remove all of the plaque on the surface of your teeth, which could build up to become tartar.
- Regular X-rays: X-rays help us track the health of your mouth below the surface. For younger patients, we use X-rays to monitor the growth and development of permanent teeth. For the rest of our patients, we also use X-rays to check on the health of your jawbones and gauge the extent of any cavities or other issues.
Your dentist will also work with you to ensure that you are properly caring for your teeth, gums, and mouth at home. We will demonstrate the proper techniques, answer any questions you might have, and give you tips and advice on how to maintain your smile when you are away from the dentist’s chair.
You are one of your own strongest allies when it comes to preventive dentistry. In addition to brushing and flossing, you can also protect your teeth by avoiding or moderating your intake of foods that could harm your smile, such as acidic foods, sugary beverages like sodas, and hard candy or food with pits that could chip or crack teeth. When you say no to smoking and the use of other tobacco products, you are also protecting the health of your mouth.
Why is preventive dentistry important?
Preventive dentistry is important because it fosters your oral health to help avoid issues that require treatment plans. For example, proper brushing and flossing, protective and preventive measures, as well as routine cleanings and exams, can keep your mouth healthy to avoid the following issues:
- Cavities: Created by tooth decay, cavities are damaged areas in your teeth. Left unchecked, they can continue to grow.
- Root canals: Root canals are the treatment needed when the soft material on the inside of your tooth is infected.
- Gum disease: Gum disease is caused by a buildup of tartar causing separations or gaps between your teeth and gums. This can lead to pain, bleeding, inflammation, tooth loss, and even infection throughout your body.
- Chips and cracks: Eating hard foods or playing contact sports without a mouthguard can lead to chips and cracks in your teeth. Likewise, if you grind your teeth at night, you can also damage your teeth.
- Oral cancer: Cancers can include throat cancer, lip cancer, gum cancer, tongue cancer, inner cheek cancer, floor of the mouth cancer, and more.
What are oral cancer screenings?
Oral cancer screenings are designed to check your mouth completely for cancer. During a screening, you can expect your dentist to check for abnormalities on the inside and outside of your lips, your gums, your tongue, the insides of your cheek, the roof of your mouth, the floor of your mouth, and the back of your throat.
It is essential that you let your dentist know as soon as possible if you notice any abnormalities in your mouth, as these could be telltale signs of oral cancer. Some abnormalities to watch out for include sores that will not heal, lumps, spots, pain, and more.
What is a VELscope and how does it help?
We are proud to use the latest technologies to benefit our patients. We utilize the VELscope Vx enhanced oral assessment system when we are screening you for oral cancer. This innovative tool helps highlight abnormalities inside your mouth that might not be apparent to the naked eye. It has been used with great success in millions of different cases around the world. Earlier detection of oral cancer often means a more effective treatment plan.
During the VELscope cancer screening, the device emits a safe light that reveals abnormalities. The examination is quick and completely painless.
Learn more about the VELscope device and cancer screening at Stiles Dental Care here.