Oral Cancer Screening: What to Expect

Oral Cancer Screening: What to Expect

Oct 27, 2021

Like other cancers, oral cancer can be reversed or treated if diagnosed timely. For this reason, it’s recommended that you have at least one oral cancer screening per year.Oral cancer screenings can be done during your regular dental check-up and cleaning.

On a typical oral cancer screening procedure, the dentist will check for early signs of cancer. Keep in mind that some early symptoms of oral cancer can look quite normal and harmless. For instance, oral cancer can begin with a simple pimple, which to many people, isn’t a reason to worry at all.

Your dentist will know what to look for when screening you for oral cancer. Some of the symptoms of oral cancer that dentists watch out for include:

  • Mouth, ear, or jaw pain
  • Sores in the mouth that don’t heal
  • Pain or difficulty when chewing or swallowing
  • Red or white patches inside the mouth
  • Lumps, tumors, or growths inside the mouth or throat
  • Loose teeth that are not associated with other dental issues such as cavities and gum disease

If you have any symptoms, contact your dentist immediately or visit a dental office near you as soon as possible. You shouldn’t wait until your next appointment. If diagnosed early, oral cancer is relatively easy and affordable to treat.

Also, it’s essential to have a regular oral cancer screening if you’re at a higher risk of getting it. Factors that increase your risk include:

  • Smoking and tobacco use
  • Regular drinking
  • History of oral cancer
  • Staying in the sun for long hours
  • Family history of oral cancer
  • Types of human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Poor diet

What to Expect During Oral Cancer Screening

Typically, the primary purpose of an oral cancer screening is to look for spots, lumps, and anything unusual or abnormal in your mouth. The exam is relatively straightforward and only takes a few minutes. Your dentist is likely to have a thorough look at your mouth, including the:

  • Lips, both inside and outside
  • Gums and jawbone
  • Cheek lining
  • Tongue, at all sides and underneath
  • The floor and roof of your mouth
  • Tonsils
  • Neck and throat

If you have any removable restorations or appliances, you’ll have to take them off and out before the screening. Please note that your dentist performs both visual and physical exams. Besides observing, they will touch your mouth, face, neck, and other parts to feel possible masses or abnormal nodules.

Oral Cancer Screening Devices

Your oral cancer exam may also require the use of specialized dental tools and tests. These include:

  • Exfoliative Cytology – Involves using an oral brush, wooden stick, or piece of cotton to remove or collect cells from the mouth for testing.
  • Fluorescence Staining – Uses a fluorescent mouth rinse to identify suspicious oral tissues. Shining a special light is used to study the tissues.
  • Toluidine Blue Stain – an oral lesion screening that uses a blue dye to inspect mouth tissues.

If There Are Signs of Cancer

If your dentist notices any signs of cancer or abnormalities, they are likely to schedule you for additional tests. For instance, they can suggest having a biopsy, where a small piece of the affected tissues is removed and sent to a lab for cancer cell testing. If the dentist feels you need further assistance, they will refer you to an oral cancer specialist.

Please note that even if your dentist finds something, it isn’t always cancer. And if it is, at least it is detected in time, and you’ll have numerous treatment options to consider.

Benefits of Oral Cancer Screening

While it may look scary and intimidating, oral cancer screening is beneficial in numerous ways, including:

  • It’s Easy and quick – An oral cancer screening is easy and only takes a few minutes. The specific time may depend on the type of exam your dentist conducts.
  • It’s Affordable – Oral cancer is a simple procedure that can even be performed during your regular dental exam and cleaning at little or no extra fee.
  • Life-saving – If oral cancer is detected in its early stages, it’s relatively easy to treat. On the contrary, oral cancer has severe discomfort and can be life-threatening if not caught in time.
  • Saves Your Money – When caught in time, oral cancer is easy to manage. However, at late stages, oral cancer has complex symptoms and can be expensive to treat.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Do you need an oral cancer screening? Contact Marshfield Dental Group today to book your appointment.

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