One common question we get from in our Peterborough office is “Do you do cancer screenings on new dental patients?” The answer is an absolute yes. There are several kinds of oral cancer, and hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are diagnosed with some form of oral cancer every year. It’s vital dentists do their part to help screen their patients for cancer whenever they get the opportunity.
In fact, this is yet another reason that new dental patients in Peterborough should schedule a dentist’s appointment! Oral cancer can easily go undetected for extended periods without dental check-ups. Also, just because you aren’t a tobacco user doesn’t mean you’re safe. Certain diseases such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) can also cause oral cancer, and it’s also been linked to alcohol use.
The only way to know for certain is to see a Peterborough dentist for a thorough examination.
How We Perform Cancer Screenings for Our New Peterborough Dental Patients
The most common form of cancer screening we do is a thorough tactile and visual examination of your mouth and head. While checking your teeth, we also check all the soft tissue for lumps, such as your tongue, lips, cheeks, and neck. We also check your lymph nodes for any signs of disease.
In addition, we generally do an X-Ray of your teeth and bone structure as part of your new patient exam. This too is checked for any signs of cancer which may be far enough below the skin that they can’t be felt through touch alone.
Another frequent problem we look for are sores within the mouth. Obviously, not every sore is cancerous. Many are just simple cold sores. However, it’s vital to take note of any sores, particularly ones which do not heal up within a week or two. Oral sores which don’t heal are a major warning sign of potential cancer.
If necessary, we can do a biopsy (collect some tissue) from the sore, sending it to a specialist lab for examination.
Either way, we photograph everything and make note of any areas which look like there even might be a problem. We often ask patients to come back in a couple weeks, particularly those who have existing sores or other issues in their mouth we want to keep an eye on.
What You Can Do to Help
To speed the process along, full disclosure is best. If you’re using tobacco, go ahead and tell us – we’ll figure it out anyway. If you have any sores on within your mouth or on your lips, be sure to point them out, particularly if they’ve been there awhile. Let us know if you have a history of cold sores or oral STDs. These might not be fun topics to talk about, but the alternative is worse. The more information you can give us, the better.