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What to Expect at an Oral Cancer Screening

April 7, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. John Maheu @ 6:45 pm
a dentist holding an oral cancer awareness ribbon

Did you know April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month? This annual observation aims to make early detection a priority so that long-term survival is possible for everyone. Fortunately, if you go to your dental checkup every six months as recommended, your dentist automatically does an oral cancer screening. Since it only takes a few moments, you may not even notice that it happened! Read on to learn what to expect from an oral cancer screening and common risk factors.

An Oral Screening from Start to Finish

Every year, about 55,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in the United States. If mouth cancer or precancerous lesions are caught early on, they are easiest to remove and can lead to a quick cure. It’s essential to catch the disease before it progresses so it can be treated before it becomes more serious.

The good news is that an oral cancer screening is part of your biannual dental examination, so you are not only caring for your teeth but your entire mouth when you attend your checkups! Generally, an oral cancer screening conducted by your dentist only takes a few minutes. It involves:

  • Visual examination: Your dentist will carefully examine your lips, gums, tongue, and the soft tissues of your mouth to look for any sores, as well as any red or white patches.
  • Physical examination: Using gloved hands, your dentist will feel for any irregular bumps or abnormalities. They will also check your neck and throat for asymmetry.
  • Oral cancer screening dye and/or light: Some dentists use special tests such as a dye or light. These tools can highlight any abnormal tissue or cells.

Next Steps

If your dentist happens to discover anything that’s concerning, they may recommend a follow-up visit in a few weeks. This way they can see if the abnormalities are still present and take note if there have been any changes. Additionally, they may also recommend a biopsy. Removing a sample of cells from the area of concern and sending it to a laboratory for testing will help determine if there is oral cancer present. Your dentist can either do the biopsy themselves or you may visit a doctor who specializes in oral cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Risk Factors

While using tobacco of any kind (i.e., cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco) is the leading cause of oral cancer, there are other risk factors. These include:

  • Previous oral cancer diagnosis
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Major sun exposure
  • Infection of HPV

Prevention is key to not only your overall well-being but your oral health too! By visiting your dentist for your checkups, you can keep your entire smile beautiful and healthy!

About the Practice

Central Dental Associates keeps the smiles of Norwood healthy and vibrant through the expertise of their team of dentists. With the belief that good oral health leads to better physical health, they provide a comprehensive range of dental services, including preventive care. Through customized plans and the use of advanced dental technology, they will help keep your oral health in top condition. To schedule an appointment, contact them through their website or call  (781) 769-3566.

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