Crazy as it may sound, there is actually a chance that your routine dental exam could save your life! The mouth is a gateway to so many other underlying medical issues that a thorough check by your friendly dentist could reveal much greater dangers lurking in the body.

Take, Tim Tooth, for example(don’t be fooled; that’s not his real name). Tim was a 60 year old male that came in for his 6 month dental check up. The examination revealed that he had some sort of ulcer on his lip that would not heal. Tim shared that he had noticed the spot for several months but had ignored it, because it didn’t cause him any pain or discomfort. He also informed the hygienist that he spent an excessive amount of time outdoors, working, and he often did so without sunscreen or face/head protection. A quick check of the rest of his face and neck as well as his vitals, proved there were no other serious concerns, but that stubborn ulcer had the dentist a bit unsettled.

After researching various possibilities, the diagnosis given was unfavorable: squamous cell carcinoma—an oral cancer type often presented in tobacco users or people over exposed to sun, most commonly seen in males and females over the age of 50. Fortunately, for Tim, his proactive dentist caught the lesion quickly and referred him for a biopsy right away. This type of cancer is slow to spread, but eventually can leak into the lymph nodes and other parts of the body, posing a much greater danger. Early detection and attention to detail by the dentist was critical for Tim’s treatment, which allowed him to get surgery and jump start his road to recovery.

Be sure to schedule your routine check up today! Who knows? It just might save your life.