Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings During Dental Exams

Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings During Dental Exams

Jan 20, 2022

Oral cancer is among the most life-threatening conditions in the world today. However, like most oral conditions such as gum disease, oral cancer is treatable if detected early enough. Unfortunately, the early signs of oral cancer aren’t easy to identify without professional assistance. For instance, oral cancer can begin as a pimple. Like most people, a pimple might not cause alarm. As time goes by, more notable symptoms start to show. At this stage, it means that the disease has already spread.

Fortunately, there’s a way to prevent oral cancer from progressing to life-threatening stages. Routine oral cancer screening can help diagnose oral cancer in its initial stages, where treatment is easy, affordable, and more effective. According to experts, you should have at least one oral screening annually. You should have more frequent screenings if you’re at a higher risk of dental issues.

What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening?

Generally, an oral cancer screening procedure is similar to your regular dental visits. Most dentists perform oral cancer screening treatments during routine dental exams. Unlike a routine dental checkup where the dentist checks for tooth decay, infections, and gum disease, during oral cancer screening, the dentist looks for early signs of oral cancer.

Before the screenings procedure, the dentist begins by reviewing your oral and overall medical condition and history. Let your dentist know if you have new needs or concerns. The dentist might also ask about your oral cancer risk factors such as smoking. Don’t hesitate to answer or ask any questions or concerns you might have.

Once the dentist has updated your file, they will begin the screening procedure. The dentist starts by inspecting your mouth, neck, and throat. They can use a mirror, light, and tongue depressor to check for abnormalities or early oral cancer signs. The dentist might also touch different areas such as cheeks and bone to check for pain or feel unusual masses. Keep in mind that oral cancer can develop in many areas of the oral cavity, including the gums, jawbone, lips, cheeks, throat, tongue, neck, and palate, among others.

Common signs that your dentist watches out for include:

  • Bumps or lumps in the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding, numbness, or pain in the mouth, ear, face, or neck
  • Red, white, or speckled red-and-white patches in the mouth
  • Persistent sores that don’t heal on the neck, face, or mouth
  • A feeling like there’s something stuck in the throat
  • Difficulty chewing, speaking, and swallowing
  • Difficulty moving the tongue or jaw
  • Dramatic and unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling in the jaw or gum tissue
  • Voice changes
  • Unexplained bad breath that doesn’t fade away

If the dentist notices any abnormalities, they will likely perform further oral cancer screening procedures that use a special dental light or dye. These include:

  • Laser light that differentiates abnormal tissues from normal tissues
  • An acetic acid solution and a special light
  • Toluidine dye that turns blue if abnormal or irregular tissues occur

If the dentist notices anything suspicious or abnormal such as a lesion, they may refer you to a dental specialist or schedule a biopsy. A biopsy entails removing suspicious tissues for further analysis.

Who to Get an Oral Cancer Screening From and When?

Anyone is an ideal candidate for oral cancer screening. The primary benefit of regular screening is to catch oral cancer in its early stages, where treatment is easy and more effective. In its late stages, oral cancer can present severe symptoms and, in worse cases, even cause death. For these reasons, regular screening is crucial.

Healthy adults under 40 years of age should have an oral cancer screening every three years. Those over 40 years of age should have at least one oral screening annually. Anyone at a higher risk of developing oral cancer should also have one oral screening annually. Risk factors to look out for include:

  • Tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption
  • Being male
  • Old age
  • Patients of Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Family history of oral cancer
  • Previous cancer oral screening
  • Significant sun exposure

Final Verdict

Suppose you haven’t scheduled an oral cancer screening yet. Now is an excellent time to contact your dentist for one. For more information about oral cancer screening practice and treatments, contact Great Neck Dental Associates.

Please do visit: Oral Cancer Screening in Great Neck, NY

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