People sometimes wonder what’s up with the twice-yearly timeframe of your professional cleanings and exams with Dr. Smith and our team. Is this some arbitrary period, kind of how the oil change people conned all of us into thinking we needed to change the oil in our cars every 3,000 miles?

Nope. First, six months is about the time it takes enough tartar to form on your teeth that it can begin to start its move under your gumline. And you don’t want that. Plus, if Dr. Smith finds a problem, such as decay in a tooth, it’s a much smaller problem if it’s only had six months to develop instead of a year or two.

But at least as important to us as making your teeth look great and keeping them that way is the other reason we need to see you twice a year. We’re always on the lookout for oral cancer, and that is one thing you really want to catch early. That’s why Dr. Smith will pull on your tongue, check your glands, and perform other brief diagnostic exercises; he’s looking for oral cancer.

There are various symptoms of oral cancer, but our visual examination is critical to early detection.

What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer is described as cancer that begins in the oral cavity. This can include the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, the teeth, gums, most of the tongue, the bottom of the mouth, and the hard palate.

Symptoms of oral cancer

As part of your home hygiene, Dr. Smith recommends being on the lookout for any signs of oral cancer. These are some of the most common signs or symptoms:

  • A sore in the mouth that doesn’t heel is the most common symptom of oral cancer
  • Persistent mouth pain, in contrast to tooth pain
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
  • A sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
  • Numbness of the tongue or other areas inside the mouth
  • Jaw swelling
  • Loosening teeth
  • Jaw pain
  • Persistent bad breath

If Dr. Smith finds any suspicious lesions (lumps, bumps, or sores) during your exam, he will usually opt to remove the growth and send it off to the lab for evaluation. Most of these growths prove to be benign, but if they are cancerous they key to treatment success is catching them early. That’s just another reason we ask our patients to be diligent about keeping their twice-yearly exams with us.

Is it time for your next cleaning/exam with Dr. Smith? Call us to schedule your appointment.

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