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Seeing your dentist regularly - generally two times per year - keeps your teeth and gums healthy by catching cavities and other issues at their earliest stages. In previous columns, we’ve discussed how dental plaque also increases inflammation in the body and can contribute to heart disease.

But a dentist can also help prevent other health problems.

For example, dentists look for signs of oral cancer during your visit by examining the tissues on your lips, gums, the insides of your cheeks, the roof and floor of your mouth, and the sides and underneath of your tongue.

What do they look for? According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dentists know to watch for:

• Spots and lesions that bleed or don’t go away.

• Crusty, rough or hard areas and lumps.

• Red or white patches.

If something looks suspicious, the dentist may ask you to come back in a week or two to see if the problem has cleared up, or send you to have a biopsy performed on a piece of tissue taken from the area in question.

With summer on its way, you’ll be flashing your smile a lot. Now’s the time to make sure it’s a healthy smile!

For an appointment call Del Norte Dental at 520-625-7224.