Oral Cancer Screening: What to Know and What to Expect | 3V Dental Associates

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Oral Cancer Screening: What to Know and What to Expect

An oral cancer screening is performed by a doctor or dentist to look for any signs of the disease, or to search for precancerous symptoms in your mouth. Here at 3V Dental, our dentists can perform oral cancer screenings during your visit. Your screening can be performed as a form of preventative care, or in addition to your scheduled cleaning, exam, or during any service we provide.

The importance of an oral cancer screening is to detect issues at an early stage. It’s important to catch them early because at this point it is easier to remove it and it is more likely to be cured at an early stage. Some groups recommend screening while others don’t, since some groups don’t see any benefits. There are some risk factors that make testing more important. If you use tobacco of any kind, which includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco, you could be at a higher risk for oral cancer. Other factors to consider include heavy alcohol use, a previous oral cancer diagnosis, and a history of significant sun exposure, which can increase the risk of lip cancers. It’s important to ask your dentist why this screening is appropriate for you, as well as ways to reduce your risk of developing this disease. Unfortunately, this process can’t predict all mouth cancers, so it’s possible that a small percentage could go undetected. However, it’s still important to get screened.

Who Can Perform an Oral Cancer Screening?

Your dentist at 3V Dental will perform an exam during a scheduled dental visit. If a dentist notices something that could be precancerous, then he or she will refer you to a specialist for a biopsy.

What to Expect During Your Oral Cancer Examination

You don’t have to do anything to prepare for this exam. This examination is pretty quick and only takes about 60 seconds. During the exam, your doctor will check 10 places inside and around the mouth and look for lumps and irregular tissue changes. Your dentist will start by asking some questions about your health. Be open and honest with your dentist about any changes to your health. Even if you think these changes are small, they could be very important. Some of the questions could be about your regular dental hygiene routine, about any tobacco use, and if there are any symptoms, such as sores. You can feel free to ask any follow up questions. Once there are some general questions answered, the dentist will feel for lumps or irregular tissue changes in the neck, head, cheeks, and mouth cavity. The dentist will be looking for any sores or tissue that looks discolored. The dentist may use some other devices, such as rinses, dyes, or different types of lights, to detect any abnormal cells. Once the assessment is over, the dentist will discuss some findings. A test can’t diagnose this disease; it can only be diagnosed after a biopsy. Just because something looks abnormal doesn’t mean that you have this disease, which is why a medical professional will need to make the diagnosis.

How Is Oral Cancer Detected?

This disease is detected as part of a routine dental exam. Some of the things the dentist is looking for include red or white patches, a sore that bleeds easily or doesn’t heal after some time, any thick or hard spots or lumps, or a roughed or crusted area. Other symptoms that are important to discuss for detection include numbness, pain or tenderness, or a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down. If there are any problems when swallowing, chewing, speaking, or moving the tongue or jaw, be sure to speak with your dentist.

There are certain oral cancer screening guidelines that have been developed by the American Dental Association, in order to perform this assessment. If something unusual appears during the screening, your dentist may reexamine you in one or two weeks to see if the sore has healed or to further evaluate your mouth. It’s possible to also just be referred to a specialist to determine your next steps.