During one of your regular dental checkups and professional cleanings, your dentist will most likely want to conduct an oral cancer screening.
An oral cancer screening is a simple exam that your dentist performs in order to ensure you don’t have any signs or symptoms of oral cancer. Every year, nearly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer and of those, nearly 10,000 will die from this disease. Early detection can save your life—so schedule an oral cancer screening or ask about one at your next dentist appointment! What should you expect during an oral cancer screening?
Your dentist will conduct a visual exam to examine your mouth for any white or red areas that could be sores indicative of oral cancer. Your dentist should also look at either side of your face for unusual lumps or changes in your facial structure. Your tongue will also be examined: this includes the top, bottom, and sides. Your dentist will also perform a physical exam in conjunction with the visual exam to check for oral cancer.
A physical exam of your mouth, neck, and jaw is an important part of the oral cancer screening—any lumps or abnormalities may not be visible but be able to be detected through touch. Your dentist will also feel the inside of your mouth, including your cheeks, in order to ensure there are no abnormalities present.
Your lymph nodes can also be at risk to develop cancerous tumors. Your dentist will examine the lymph nodes that are present in your neck. Your lips will also be physically examined in addition to the place where your jaw hinges near your ears.
Your dentist will also ask you some questions during your oral cancer screening. He or she will ask if you’re experiencing any symptoms that you haven’t mentioned, whether or not you smoke, and how frequently you drink. Smoking and drinking are big risk factors that should be addressed.
People who consume alcohol in excess or smoke are more likely to get oral cancer than those who don’t. Be open and honest with your dentist so that he or she can advise you and help assess your risk for oral cancer as you age. Age is also risk factor for oral cancer!
The Symptoms of Oral Cancer
It’s important that you talk to your dentist about any symptoms you’re experiencing when it comes to oral cancer. Although some people experience no symptoms, especially in the early stages of cancer, other symptoms may include a sore in the mouth that doesn’t go away, a lump or swollen lymph nodes that don’t go decrease in size, or even facial numbness.
Since some of these symptoms are vague and difficult to notice, it’s best to get a check up with a professional. Your dentist can examine your mouth during your regular checkups to ensure no signs of cancer are present.
Have you ever had an oral cancer screening? Talk with your dentist during your next checkup about your risk for oral cancer. Prevention is the best medicine, and early detection of oral cancer can mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful treatment. Get screened for oral cancer with your dentist during your next visit!