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Can Skipping Your Dental Appointment Increase Risk for Oral Cancer?

The easy answer is yes, but there’s more to it than that. You have likely been told by your dentist and/or physician about the importance of oral cancer screenings. Early diagnosis and treatment may be the best way to reduce oral cancer related deaths. Until the past few years, the causes of oral cancer have not been directly linked to oral health and hygiene. Now, we know that there are certain oral health factors that are directly linked to specific types of oral cancers, and we expect more links will be discovered in the years to come. Visiting a skilled dentist every six months to receive dental checkups, teeth cleanings, and oral cancer screenings will reduce your risk for oral cancer and increase your chances to receive diagnosis in the early, most treatable stages.

The Study

For years, the dental community has banded together to encourage our patients to receive oral cancer screenings during their six month checkups. We’ve been educating patients about the warning signs and doing our best to partner with patients and their physicians to receive earlier diagnosis and treatment for oral cancer. In 2016, researchers at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry found a definitive link between oral health and risk for oral cancer. One type of bacteria that commonly leads to gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, was found in 61% of patients suffering from esophageal (throat) cancer. This could be the first of many discoveries that allow dentists to truly save patients’ lives with prevention of and treatment for oral cancers.

Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

Oral cancer is one of the deadliest forms of this disease. One patient dies every hour in the US from oral cancer and related illnesses. While many patients believe that this disease only affects tobacco users, 25% or more of patients do not engage in any tobacco use, and as the University of Louisville research found, these cases may be linked to poor oral health. Regular oral cancer screenings may allow more patients to receive treatment in earlier stages of the disease and make full recoveries.

The Oral Cancer Screening Process at Access Dental

At Access Dental, we perform oral cancer screenings as part of our regular dental checkups. The screenings are quick and painless. In fact, you probably won’t notice that your screening even happened. We use diagnostic images (x-rays and photos) as well as visual and manual examination. We’re looking for the early signs of oral cancer. We will also ask you questions about any changes in the color, texture, or shape of your oral and facial structures. If we notice areas for concern, we will either monitor the situation or recommend further evaluation. If you want to find out more, call Access Dental in one of our four convenient Austin area locations. We have offices on Rundberg Lane, William Cannon Drive, East 7th Street, and Ed Bluestein. Wherever you live in Austin, there’s an Access Dental location nearby.