The One Exam Every Man Needs to Have

Father and son walking in the woods
Forget the tie, craft beer brewing kit and tricked-out barbecue tongs this Father’s Day. You could give the man you love a lifesaving gift by just asking him a simple question: When was the last time you went to the dentist? Men, as it turns out, are less likely to visit the dentist than women.

Regular dental checkups are important for everyone, but they’re especially vital for men. Men are twice more likely to get oral cancer. Approximately 40,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with oral and pharyngeal (throat) cancers. According to the National Cancer Institute, 15 in 100,000 diagnosed each year are men.  

Early detection can result in better treatment outcomes and may help keep an important man in your life – maybe even yourself – from becoming one of the 8,000 people whose lives are claimed each year by the disease. 

What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening?

During your regular exam, your dentist will ask you about changes in your medical history and whether you’ve been having any new or unusual symptoms.

Then, your dentist will check the oral cavity. This includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, the front part of your tongue, the floor of your mouth and the roof of your mouth. Your dentist will also examine your throat (pharynx) at the soft part at the roof of your mouth, including your tonsils, the back section of your tongue and where your tongue attaches to the bottom of your mouth. The dentist will move on to feel your jaw and neck for any lumps or abnormalities.

What Is My Dentist Looking For?

While examining your mouth and neck, your dentist is on the lookout for six possible signs of oral cancer:
  • A sore or irritation that doesn't go away
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
  • A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth
Some patients complain of a sore throat, feeling like something is caught in their throat, numbness, hoarseness or a change in voice. If you have any of these symptoms, let your dentist know, especially if you’ve had them for two weeks or more.

What Happens If My Dentist Finds Something Suspicious?

Stay calm. Your dentist won’t be able to tell right away if what he or she is looking at is cancerous, so he or she may refer you for testing . Or your dentist might also reexamine you a week or two later to see if questionable spots are healing on their own before recommending additional follow-up. Together, you and your dentist can create the best strategy for diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

What Can I Do to Prevent Oral Cancer?

The most important thing is to be aware of your risk factors. If you have had oral cancer before, you may be more likely to develop it again so keep up those regular visits.


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