Posted .

The next time you visit the dentist, ask about your oral cancer screening. Most dentists screen their patients for oral cancer at every checkup, but most patients don’t even realize it. As the dentist exams your mouth, he checks about ten different spots to look for any lumps or irregular tissue changes that could point to oral cancer.

The most frequent oral cancer sites are the tongue, the floor of the mouth and soft palate tissues at the back of the tongue, the lips, and gums. Scientists still aren’t sure what causes oral cancer. Research does show, however, that the carcinogens found in tobacco and alcohol, as well as excessive exposure to sunlight, can increase your risk of developing it.

Each year, about 35,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer, which accounts for roughly 3,700 deaths every year. But don’t worry – the good news about oral cancer is that if it is detected early, it can be cured. That’s why most dentists make sure an oral screening is a routine part of your dental visit. Chances are that as long as you are attending your regular dental cleanings and exams, any oral cancer development in your mouth will be detected early enough to reverse it.

So next time you get that reminder call about your six month cleaning and exam, don’t brush it off. Going to your appointment just might save your life.