Many patients think that the dentist is only concerned with their teeth, but that is not the case. During a routine exam, your dentist will examine all of the structures in your mouth, including soft tissues like the gums, as well as your tongue. Furthermore, the dentist will inspect both the top of your tongue and its underside to look for any signs that could indicate a problem.
Your tongue can signal important things about your dental health. Most importantly, certain markings on the tongue may be symptoms of oral cancers or areas/lesions that could develop into cancer.
Therefore, the dentist will look for things like white or red patches on the tongue or thickened areas, non-healing sores or lumps. Any of these symptoms may point to a more serious problem, although they can easily be benign as well.
Your tongue can signal important things about your dental health.
If you do have any suspicious regions on your tongue, the dentist may also remove a tissue sample for biopsy in order to get an accurate diagnosis. The results of that biopsy can then inform a treatment plan if an additional intervention is needed.
Oral cancer, like all cancers, is a very serious condition. However, when it is diagnosed in an early stage, it is easily treatable. In fact, the five-year survival rate for stage I oral cancers of the tongue is more than 70 percent.
Unfortunately, though, in a large number of patients, the cancer is not detected until stage three or four, when the five-year survival rate for most of the oral cancers drops to less than 50 percent.
Patients whose lifestyle choices, such as tobacco use, put them at greater risk for oral cancer should be vigilant in monitoring their tongues for any noteworthy changes or signs of concern.
Your tongue is for more than just tasting your food. Pay attention to your tongue and be aware of any signs that may suggest a problem. If you have any concerns about your tongue’s appearance, point them out to your dentist at The Dental Place at your next exam.