Why You May Need an Oral Cancer Screening During Your Dental Exam

Why You May Need an Oral Cancer Screening During Your Dental Exam

June 1, 2023

What Are Dental Exams?

They are routine examinations of your mouth and throat by a dental professional. The dental exam assesses your oral health to identify potential problems and provide preventive care to maintain your oral health. Only after a dental exam will your dentist develop a tailored plan for your treatment to meet your oral needs.

During a dental exam, the dentist will typically do the following:

  1. Visual inspection of your mouth, including the teeth, gums, tongue, and Mouth –checking for any signs of decay, cavities, gum disease, or other oral health problems
  2. X-rays of your teeth and jawbone to check for hidden problems such as cavities between teeth, impacted teeth, or jawbone damage that are not visible with the baked eyes.
  3. Cleaning – dental exams and cleanings often come as a package in preventive dentistry. The dentist cleans your teeth to eliminate plaque accumulated on the surfaces and removes all surface stains before polishing them for the final look.

What Is Oral Cancer Screening?

It is a process of examining the mouth, lips, and throat to detect anomalies pointing to signs of cancerous or precancerous cells. Oral cancer screening detects oral cancer at an early stage when it is most treatable.

During an oral cancer screening, dentists typically look for unusual changes, such as lumps, bumps, sores, or discoloration. They may also feel or palpate the inside of your mouth and neck with a gloved hand to check for abnormal growth.

Do Cancer Screenings Happen During Dental Exams?

Yes, oral cancer screenings near you often happen during dental checkups. Routine dental exams are essential for maintaining good oral health, helping to detect oral cancer early, in its most treatable stage, for the best outcomes.

Many dentists in Daphne, AL, include routine oral cancer screenings in regular dental exams. The dentist will visually and physically examine your oral features, including the tongue, gums, and throat, for any unusual changes. Anomalies are often a sign to probe further.

At this, your dentist may conduct additional tests, employing oral cancer screening devices and techniques to detect abnormal tissues. If the dentist suspects the tissues to be cancerous, they recommend a biopsy. A biopsy tests and analyzes a small sample of oral tissue in a laboratory.

When Do You Need Oral Cancer Screening?

Oral cancer screening is typically necessary for people who are highly susceptible to developing oral cancer. Otherwise, your dentist will have you keep up with routine dental exams until there is a need to probe further. Some of the indicators that you need oral cancer screening during your dental exam at Milestone Family Dentistry are:

  1. Tobacco use: Smoking, chewing tobacco, and other tobacco products increase the risk of oral cancer. In fact, research shows that smokers are about 50% more vulnerable to developing mouth cancer than non-smokers.
  2. Alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption for prolonged periods increases the risk of oral cancer.
  3. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: Certain strains of HPV increase the risk of oral cancer. When you indulge in sex with more than one partner or engage in oral sex, you are more prone to this virus.
  4. Age: Oral cancer is more prevalent among patients older than 40 years.
  5. Gender: Twice the number of men than women develop oral cancer.
  6. Sun exposure: Staying in the sun without ample protection for a long period increases the risk of lip cancer.
  7. Genetics: If other family members have oral cancer, you may get it too.
  8. A previous diagnosis of cancer: If you are in remission for a different type of cancer, you ate still at a high risk of oral cancer.

How Often Do You Need Oral Cancer Screening?

The frequency of any dental tests is dependent on factors like the initial state of your oral health, your lifestyle choices, the risk factors, and your dentist’s recommendation.

For most people, oral cancer screening should happen at least once annually. However, have regular dental exams at least once every 6 months. During the dental exams, the dentist may conduct an oral screening test.

If you are at an increased risk for mouth cancer, your dentist will recommend more frequent oral cancer screenings. You should also be aware of the common mouth cancer indicators so you can contact your dentist in Daphne, AL if you notice them. Examples are:

  1. A tumor, bump, or mouth sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal
  2. Persistent mouth pain or discomfort
  3. Difficulty and pain when swallowing
  4. A velvet-like, whitish or reddish patch on your gums, tongue, or mouth lining
  5. Feeling numb or having tingling sensation in the mouth or lips
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