What Should You Expect in an Oral Cancer Screening?

A young caring doctorOral cancer can be tough to diagnose. But as with all cancers, oral cancer is most effectively treated when caught early. Consequently, most dentists incorporate basic oral cancer screenings into routine exams. Preventative dental care is vital to your overall health and should be considered at least on an annual basis.

Risk Factors

The first step of an oral cancer screening entails disclosing information about specific risk factors associated with related cancers. For patients with one or more risk factors for oral cancer, regular screenings are particularly important. Consider incorporating a thorough screening at your next dental appointment if any of the risk factors below apply to you:

  • Tobacco use (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chew, or other) presents the highest risk of developing oral cancer. Consider quitting if you’re a smoker or have a habit of chewing tobacco.
  • Alcohol use in regular, large quantities also contributes to higher oral cancer risk. Be sure to limit your intake.
  • Extended sun exposure can lead to lip cancer. If you spend time outdoors often, use a lip balm with SPF protection.
  • Presence of the human papillomavirus can lead to oral cancer. Vaccinations against the virus are available to certain populations.
  • Previous oral cancer diagnoses should be considered in the possible case of recurrence.

Exams (Internal and External)

Next, the dentist will perform a mouth, head, and neck exam in search of any bumps, growths, lesions, discoloration, texture changes, or other anomalies.

The external exam includes palpating the jaw, neck, thyroid, and lymph nodes. Checking the lymph nodes is especially important as they can cause cancer to spread.  Some dentists may also check eye movement and vocal vibrations.

The internal exam includes the lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, and the areas in between. The most common spot for oral cancer to develop is at the base of the tongue, so your dentist may need to pull your tongue forward to thoroughly examine the area.

Kalil & Kress also utilizes the VELscope® to help identify unhealthy cells against normal cells in the mouth. Healthy cells glow bright green, while unhealthy tissue shows a bit darker.

Contact us for an appointment!

We’re always looking out for our patients and the best ways to treat your dental issues. Please feel free to reach out with any questions regarding oral cancer!

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