The potentially life-saving power of routine oral cancer screenings

Cancers of the oral cavity (mouth) and pharynx (throat) are on the rise in Georgia. Plus, our state’s incidence of oropharyngeal cancers outpaces the national average, 12.5 versus 11.9 cases per 100,000 people. Fortunately, the risk of developing these cancers can be minimized. And, when detected early, the prognosis for treatment is very good. The Athens Dental Group team is on the front lines of preventing, detecting, and managing pre-cancers and cancers of the lips, gums, tongue, and other oral tissues. 

What can I do to reduce my risk?

Getting into a healthy habit of regularly screening for pre-cancerous lesions and localized tumors is essential. These screenings are generally integrated with other preventative services, such as professional cleanings and comprehensive exams. While healthy patients with no risk factors typically have these dental “check-ups” at six-month intervals, individuals who are at risk for oral and pharyngeal cancers should visit us more frequently than that. We can advise on the proper schedule for you. We will also work to actively address risk factors specific to you and your situation. Modifiable factors include smoking and tobacco use, inconsistent oral hygiene, and nutritional problems. 

What should I expect during my screening?

One of our dentists, Drs. Drew Richardson, Brant Sandifer, or R. Lawrence George will ask you to go, “Ah!” and take a close look at the inside of your mouth. They are looking for potential anomalies, such as persistent red sores, pink patches, or white-gray and raised lesions (leukoplakia). They will also feel for strange lumps, bumps, and thickened areas of tissue on your face and neck. These can all be red flags. For further confirmation, additional testing may be done. These tests could include taking a sample or biopsy of tissue. This tissue is then viewed under a microscope to rule out potentially serious problems like cancer.

What else should I watch for?

We encourage you to contact us immediately if you notice any changes in how your oral appliances fit. This could indicate suspicious swelling. Other potential problems to tell us about during regular visits and without delay include the following:

  • Sores that fail to heal
  • A hoarse voice
  • A frequent sore throat
  • Pain that may radiate to the ears
  • Difficult or painful swallowing

Yes, regular visits to our office support healthy teeth and an appealing smile. However, they might just save your life, too. Unlike other cancers, oropharyngeal cancer has a high survival rate when detected and resolved before the cancer has spread to other parts of the mouth, face, and body. Call (706) 666-4611 to schedule your appointment at Athens Dental Group today. Our team is proud to serve Watkinsville, Athens, Winder, Bethlehem, Jefferson, Winterville, Madison, and greater northern and eastern GA with quality, comfortable dentistry that individuals and their families can trust.