Your Dentist May Save Your Life!
The general dentist is the cornerstone of your oral health. Unfortunately, very few health care providers are trained well enough to do a good oral and maxillofacial examination. I have seen many primary care physicians do an “oral examination.” Usually, this is a cursory view of the the posterior oropharynx with less than optimal lighting. This is not because they do not care. It is because in the past, most physicians were not trained how to perform a thorough head and neck examination. Fortunately, this is changing and most medical schools are incorporating the training your dentist received into their curriculum. Most doctors recommend a 6 month recall examination for their dental patients. During this appointment, the dentist and hygienist are looking for signs of infection, disease, cavities, and cancer. Despite advances in the treatment of head and neck cancer, it is still a deadly disease. Early detection of head, neck, and oral cancer leads to better outcomes and increased survival. Several times a year we see patients referred for biopsy who are diagnosed with cancer. Most of these patients would have had no idea they had cancer for quite some time. Early detection of supsicious lesions by your dentist may save your life. The image above is from a patient who ultimately died from his cancer. This cancer started out very small. Early detection by his general dentist may have resulted in different story. Unfortunatley, this patient did not seek care until the cancer had become life threatening.