Ever wonder why we look so closely at your tongue and palate when you are in for cleanings? Roughly one person dies every hour from oral cancer. Historically the death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development. That is why your dental exams are so important to keep.
Front of the mouth oral cancers are usually related to tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption or a genetic predisposition in a small number of cases. They often produce visible pre-cancerous tissue changes that can be seen with the naked eye so we will always look at every cleaning appointment. In the very rear of the mouth, known as the oropharynx, cancer can occur related to tobacco use; but now more frequently it is caused by the HPV16 virus, one that is commonly associated with cervical and other cancers. Sometimes it is easy to put off a cleaning appointment, perhaps your schedule is busy or you're out of insurance benefit for the year; but remember screening for oral cancer is best if done often.