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  • Writer's pictureKelly White

How Your Dentist Can Detect Cancer: The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

Many people visit their dentist for routine dental checkups to maintain good oral health and a beautiful smile. However, what many might not realize is that dentists can also play a crucial role in detecting cancer, especially oral cancer. Early detection is critical for successful treatment, and your dentist is trained to spot the early signs of oral cancer during routine examinations. This article will discuss how dentists can detect cancer, the importance of regular dental checkups, and what signs you should be aware of.

How Dentists Detect Oral Cancer

Dentists are trained to identify the early signs of oral cancer during your regular dental checkups. They perform a visual examination of your mouth, including the lips, gums, tongue, cheeks, and the floor and roof of your mouth. The dentist will also check your throat and neck for any abnormalities. Some signs that your dentist may look for include:

  1. Red or white patches in the mouth

  2. Lumps, bumps, or swelling

  3. Mouth sores that do not heal

  4. Difficulty swallowing or changes in your bite

  5. Persistent pain in the mouth or jaw

If your dentist notices any of these symptoms, they may recommend further testing or a referral to a specialist, such as an oral surgeon or an oncologist, for a more in-depth evaluation.

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

Scheduling regular dental checkups is essential not only for maintaining good oral health but also for early cancer detection. Oral cancer often goes unnoticed in its early stages because it may not cause any symptoms or pain. By seeing your dentist regularly, you increase the chances of detecting oral cancer early, leading to a better prognosis and more effective treatment options.

It is generally recommended that adults visit their dentist for a checkup and cleaning every six months. However, your dentist may suggest more frequent visits if you are at a higher risk for oral cancer or other dental issues.

Know the Signs and Risk Factors

In addition to regular dental checkups, it's essential to be aware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer, as well as the risk factors associated with it. Some common risk factors for oral cancer include:

  1. Tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco

  2. Excessive alcohol consumption

  3. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection

  4. Prolonged sun exposure, which can increase the risk of lip cancer

  5. A family history of oral cancer

If you notice any changes in your mouth or have any concerns, don't hesitate to contact your dentist for an evaluation.


Regular dental checkups are crucial for maintaining good oral health and early detection of oral cancer. Dentists are trained to spot the early signs of cancer, which can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment. By being proactive about your oral health, you can take the necessary steps to prevent oral cancer or detect it at an early stage. Make sure to schedule regular dental checkups, be aware of the signs and risk factors, and contact your dentist if you have any concerns.

Dental Associates of West Michigan

(616) 554-5940

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