Open wide: look inside

Take a good look in the mirror to check for signs of oral cancer

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We spend plenty of time looking at our face and hair: make sure your mouth gets attention too.

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EVER caught yourself in the mirror with your mouth wide open? Do yourself a favour and take a good look before you close it.

While we spend plenty of time looking at ourselves in the mirror to check our face or hair, not many of us bother checking inside our mouth.

We should.

The Australian Dental Association wants people to visit their dentist regularly and not just have their teeth, but also the soft tissue of the tongue, throat and mouth, checked too.

Why?

  • There is an increased risk of oral cancer from excessive or long-term drinking and smoking. The ADA's Oral Health Tracker shows that 12 per cent of people aged 14-plus are daily smokers and 17 per cent demonstrate long-term risky drinking habits.
  • About 59 per cent of mouth cancers in Australia are caused by smoking; around 31 per cent are caused by excess alcohol consumption (clinically denoted as more than two drinks a day).
  • Most commonly, cancer within the mouth occurs on the lips, tongue and floor of the mouth. Signs include unusual looking red or white areas on the soft tissue, an ulcer with raised edges which appears irregular, or anything unusual that hasn't gone away after two weeks.
  • Early detection is a key component of successful treatment. Treatment can be associated with ongoing functional issues and low quality of life, because it can lead to dry mouth, tooth decay and loose teeth - or losing parts of your mouth and tongue due to surgery.

"Screening and early detection is paramount," said ADA spokesperson Dr Mikaela Chinotti.

"Your general dentist will perform oral screenings as part of general check-ups, and this will involve checking the tongue, soft tissue in the mouth, and the neck and throat areas.

"It's important also for people to look into their own mouths regularly. Why not take a moment after brushing to have a look? It only takes a few seconds."

For more on oral health, click HERE

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