Monday, May 3, 2021

Why Oral Cancer is Something Every Dentist Should Screen For

Oral Cancer 

It's two words that none of us want to hear... and for those of us that see them on occasion... it's 2 words we hate to say.

I want to make a point today of explaining to non-medical readers today why almost all dentists screen for signs of the disease.  Sometimes when I'm doing an oral cancer screening in my office someone will (usually a male) will say, "Why are you doing that?  I don't chew."

The reason for screening is to catch things earlier and unfortunately oral cancer has changed in the past decade or so.  It *used to be* a disease of older folks, especially men, who had a history of tobacco use as well as alcohol consumption.  When a man was in the mid-forties or older with a tobacco and alcohol habit was when you normally expected to see the disease.

Human papilloma virus has changed all that.  Now, the majority of cases are found in men *under forty*.  HPV is the virus that causes most cervical cancers and the mouth and the female reproductive tract are made of similar type tissues.  Unfortunately that means that a virus that thrives in the female reproductive tract can also thrive in men's oral cavities, especially in the tonsil area and the throat.

We have seen an incredible increase in the incidence of oral cancers in younger men and we need to educate the lay public about it.  Many doctors are now recommending Guardasil for both sexes now.  It is a vaccine against HPV-16 which is the virus that causes these cancers.

If your dentist is NOT performing an oral cancer screening at every cleaning, ask for one.  This is a horrible disease that needs to be caught at its earliest stages to increase chances of survival.

To close out today's post, I'd like to provide a link about a young man in Australia that is battling this horrible disease.  It's an emotional read and I think everyone should see it.  


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