Oral Signs and Symptoms of Disease
Diseases whose early signs and symptoms appear in the mouth can affect both your health and life expectancy. Of these, oral cancer is a primary concern. More than 30,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. If the cancer is caught early, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent. If it isn’t caught early, the survival rate drops to 50 percent.
It’s common knowledge that the responsibility of a qualified health professional is to screen you for, and if necessary, treat you for all forms of cancer. But did you know that oral cancer is the only one they do not screen/test for? The one responsible for that task is the dentist. While most dentists will include this in their examination you should always remind him or her.
There are three main reasons why oral cancer is so difficult to detect. It is because:
• health professionals do not examine their patients for oral cancer.
• over 50% of the adult population does not see a dentist on a regular basis, making it impossible for the dentist to screen for oral cancer.
• people do not know how to examine themselves for oral cancer. The public has been educated about cancer self-examination, such as breast and skin cancer. But do you ever remember anyone suggesting you should examine yourself for oral cancer?
The question you may ask is just how does oral cancer relate to dental disease? The answer is that it may not be caused by gum disease or tooth decay but because the early signs of oral cancer are found in the mouth your dentist is the one responsible for examining you for it.
Diseases whose Symptoms Appear in the Mouth
In addition, there are over 20 other diseases whose early signs and symptoms can show up first in the mouth and its adjacent tissue. There is no doubt that the early detection of any of these diseases increases the possibility of successful treatment and now you know that an oral examination can help in that early detection.
My book, Healthy Teeth-Healthy Body, includes an informative chapter about oral self-examination and its importance to dental and overall health. That chapter is not meant to replace an examination by the dentist, or other health professional, but once you have had your dental examination and know what a healthy mouth looks like you can become an informed and active participant in the cancer early warning system.
You’ve heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of gold. Well, in my opinion that phrase is no longer accurate. Today, with the available science, there can be no doubt that an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of gold . . . after all what is your life worth? But remember, while treatment is the responsibility of the health professional, prevention is yours.
Treating and preventing dental disease is not about saving your teeth, it is about improving your health and well being and extending your life.