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oral cancer screening

Is Oral Cancer Screening Necessary?

It is estimated that there will be around 54,000 new cases of oral cancer in the United States this year. Dentists perform oral cancer screenings to look for precancerous conditions or signs of cancer in your mouth. Early detection can give you a higher chance of curing the condition.

If you’re unsure that oral cancer screening is necessary for you, read on to learn why oral cancer screening can be helpful.

What Happens During An Oral Cancer Screening?

During an oral cancer screening, your dentist performs a clinical examination of your mouth and throat. They use a light, a small mirror, and a tongue depressor to examine the roof of your mouth, your inner cheeks, your tonsils, your gums, and your tongue. They look for any abnormalities, including the following:

  • Bumps
  • Patches of white or color
  • Ulcerations or sores
  • Swelling

Finding mouth sores or any other of these abnormalities is a great reason to schedule a checkup appointment.

Once your dentist has looked at every part of your mouth, they will palpate (examine by touching) your jaw, neck, outside cheeks, and below your chin to feel for unusual growths, firm nodules, or masses.

If your dentist identifies an abnormality, they may use a special dye or light to examine the area further. The most common tests include the following:

  • Laser lights that reflect normal tissue differently from abnormal tissue
  • Toluidine blue dye which turns blue if in contact with abnormal tissue
  • Acetic acid that scatters certain light differently on abnormal tissue

Why Screen For Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer has a high death rate. Historically, this has been because it is seldom discovered early in its development. It can go unnoticed by the patient for months, with little to no pain or side effects. This gives it the chance to spread and create second primary tumors.

The majority of the time, oral cancer is discovered when the disease has metastasized somewhere else in the body, such as the lymph nodes.

Many dentists perform routine oral cancer examinations during dental checkups. They perform further tests to help identify abnormal or potentially cancerous cells in your mouth.

Risk Factors

There are several factors that can put you at higher risk for oral cancer. These range from lifestyle choices to genetics, and include the following:

  • Tobacco use (including the smoking of cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, and the chewing of tobacco or snuff)
  • Heavy, frequent alcohol use
  • History of substantial sun exposure (which increases your risk of lip cancer)
  • Previous oral cancer diagnosis
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) diagnosis
  • Family history of cancer

Regular oral cancer screening can give you the best chance of early diagnosis and cure. If you’re at high risk for oral cancer, your dentist may recommend annual oral cancer screening.

Oral Cancer Screening And More In South Florida

If you’re feeling concerned about your risk of developing oral cancer, be sure to visit your dentist soon. They can explain the various screening options and recommend a plan of action. Being proactive is the best way to catch oral cancer early. If you’ve noticed changes in your mouth, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with an experienced and caring dentist from Erik’s Dental Group.

Here at Erik’s Dental Group, we’re here to ease your worries and walk you through the oral cancer screening process. We pride ourselves on providing comprehensive, compassionate dental care. To schedule an oral cancer screening or teeth cleaning, contact us at 561-733-4004 today.