Oral cancer screenings can be highly helpful in determining whether there is a risk of oral cancer development. Oral cancer screening is designed to detect early signs and symptoms of oral cancer before their progressing to an advanced stage.
Oral cancer can be treated successfully if it is detected early enough, and so, oral cancer screening is crucial. About 84% cases of oral cancer can be diagnosed early by a dental hygienist or dental health professional. When doing a screening for oral cancer, a dentist uses several tools to find any mouth sores or discoloration in the mouth, if present. Then, they feel the tissues around the mouth for any abnormalities or lumps. In case they find any kind of abnormality in the mouth, they will conduct further testing by sending its sample to a lab.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Following are some chief oral cancer risk factors to help determine if there’s a risk:
- Unhealthy diet
- Gender – men have higher susceptibility than women
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Prolonged sun exposure
- Heavy use of alcohol
- Smoking or use of tobacco
- Age – people aged over 40 have a higher risk
Although people with oral cancer diagnosis have one of the risk factors mentioned above at the least, however, there is an increasing number of people with oral cancer diagnosis who absolutely don’t have any risk factors. So, even if there are none of the risk factors, screenings for oral cancer are still important.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
When doing oral cancer screening, a dentist looks out for the symptoms mentioned below:
- Pain or numbness when biting down on the teeth
- A hard spot or lump in the mouth
- Spots that don’t heal or bleed continuously
- White or red patches in mouth
What to know About Oral Cancer Screening?
The oral cavity can be accessed easily for routine examination. Nonmedical personnel can detect lesions readily, which are precursors of carcinoma. Moreover, it has been indicated that if the use of tobacco ceases, the precursor lesions may regress, and that early oral cancer’s surgical treatment is very effective.
Oral cancer screening consists of different levels. A dentist is likely to suggest you a basic examination which involves a thorough observation of all parts of the mouth, including:
- The back of throat
- Roof of mouth
- Insides of cheeks
- Underneath and all sides of tongue
- Inside and outside of lips
In case you wear dentures, you will need to take them out for the dentist to examine the tissue underneath them.
The examination usually takes less than 5 minutes.
The exam’s goal is looking for spots and lumps and see for anything unusual appearing about the spit which covers all pink parts within your mouth. In case you ever find any of these signs yourself, call your dentist.
Going a bit more in-depth in the screening test, your dentist may ask you to rinse mouth with a blue dye prior to the exam. The dye is absorbed by any unusual cells in the mouth, and so, the dentist can see them easily.
In case a dentist finds something unusual, he may give you another appointment after a few weeks to observe if there are any changes. Moreover, he may suggest you a biopsy in which a small portion of tissue is taken from an area looking troublesome and it’s sent to a lab for getting tested for cancer cells. The biopsy may be taken by your dentist or you may be referred to another doctor who can take the biopsy.
Why Get Oral Cancer Screening
Here are some reasons you should get screened for oral cancer:
The screening test for oral cancer is an easy process that doesn’t take much time.
Many dental clinics offer oral cancer screenings as a part of regular dental exam or dental hygiene services, involving no extra expenses unless there is a need of any follow-up procedures.
Can Save Life
Chances of survival can be increased by at least 20% when the disease is detected early.
Screening for oral cancer can be key to protecting yourself. There are several dental offices like Des Moines Dental Group that include oral cancer screening in their dental hygiene appointment. Consider getting screened for the disease in your dental checkups and dental hygiene appointments.