Dentists saving lives


(CNN/KYTX) -  February is National Cancer Prevention Month. Someone you see regularly is helping keep the cancer out of your life. Getting a dental check up means more than having your teeth and gums prodded and poked. Dentists also screen for cancer.  

Lynda Hutzler knows that a visit to the dentist is not just about cavities and gum disease. It can be life saving.

"I started having this burning sensation in the tongue area and the back of the throat." she says.

When the symptoms lasted more than a few weeks, her dentist suspected it might be oral cancer.  

"She did a thorough exam and sent me immediately to the hospital."
She says she's thankful her cancer was caught early. 

"I feel so grateful."

"Open real wide. Stick you tongue out."
Tyler dentist Dr. Rick Coker says early detection is key in fighting oral cancer.

"Oral cancer is a horrible way to die. If it's diagnosed early, it's very simple to take care of. It's no big deal. Diagnose it late, it's a death sentence. And so, we're doing everything we can. You can do a decent exam in about 90 seconds."

He says your dentist should be doing this every visit.

"The lateral sides of the tongue and underneath the tongue is a special concern because a lot of times, you don't look there." 

Dr. Coker says there's been a rise in oral cancer because of increased exposure to the Human Papilloma Virus.

"Used to be just alcoholics or people who smoke heavily- cigar smokers especially- were the ones who got it." he says. "But, that's not the case anymore. Young people- they've been exposed to it. And so, it's a real concern."
He's referred two of his patients to seek medical help.

"And, they were too late. And so, it was a long, slow death. And, it just burns into your memory."

Not all warts, bumps, and burning sensations mean cancer, but Dr. Coker says if you notice something strange in your mouth, it needs to be checked out.





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