When you go in for a dental exam, your dentist will probably perform an oral cancer screening in addition to cleaning, X-rays, and evaluation of the teeth. This screening can help diagnose oral cancer before it becomes serious, and while it is still treatable. Like all cancers, oral cancer is more easily treated in its early stages. Your dentist can help ensure that any problems are spotted before they have a chance to spread widely.
What Is an Oral Cancer Screening?
During a routine dental exam, your dentist is in a unique position to examine all the soft tissues inside your mouth. This includes the gums, the tongue, the insides of the cheeks, and the soft and hard palates. By closely examining all these tissues both visually and digitally, your dentist can determine if there are any unusual lesions, growths, or other signs of possible cancer. Some of the signs your dentist might be looking for include:
- White spots on the gums, tongue, or other tissues
- Unusual lumps or growths
- Lesions or sores
Any of these could be signs of developing oral cancer. If your dentist does see anything unusual, he will recommend next steps, which will enable accurate diagnosis and treatment. This can include a biopsy to determine if a growth is malignant, surgery to remove growths or cancerous tissue, or cancer-specific treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation.
Am I At Risk for Oral Cancer?
Although oral cancer can occur in people who have no existing risk factors, some people are at greater risk. You might be at a greater risk for oral cancer if you:
- Are a smoker
- Chew tobacco
- Drink excessively
- Have a family history of oral cancer
- Have a family or personal history of any form of cancer
If you have any of these risk factors, it’s even more important to visit your dentist on a regular basis both for routine dental care and cancer screenings. A normal dental exam might be the thing that, in the long term, saves your life. Schedule one today by calling our office!