What Is Oral Cancer Screening? An Inside Look Into Oral Cancer Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Screening

What Is Oral Cancer Screening? An Inside Look Into Oral Cancer Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Screening

Oct 01, 2020

Regular checkups with our dentist in Edgartown, MA, goes beyond keeping your smile bright. These visits are essential since they provide our dentist with the unique opportunity of thoroughly examining your mouth.

Your oral health plays an essential role in the quality of your life. Seeing a dentist at least twice a year is vital for keeping your smile in tip-top shape. These visits are crucial since you will also get oral cancer screenings.

Experts have not always agreed on how often a patient should get oral cancer screening tests. If you have a higher risk of getting oral cancer, you should receive the screenings more frequently. However, it is difficult to know if you are more likely to get the disease or not. First, let’s see who is at risk of getting oral cancer.

Risk Factors

Some of the factors that can make you more likely to get oral cancer are:

  • If you regularly drink a lot of alcohol
  • If you use tobacco products
  • If you are a frequent sunbather
  • If you have a weakened immune system
  • If you have a sexually transmitted virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV)

Ask our dentist for an oral cancer screening test if you fall into any of the above categories. You can also come in for a checkup if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Chronic sore throats
  • Discoloration of your teeth
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Loose teeth
  • A mouth or lip sore that doesn’t heal
  • White or reddish patch inside your mouth
  • Pain in the mouth
  • A growth or lump in the mouth
  • Ear pain

Oral Cancer Screening Overview

In a nutshell, oral cancer screening is an examination that our dentist performs to look for signs of precancerous conditions or cancer in your oral cavity. It is a physical and visual exam of the mouth and can help reassure you that there are no issues. If the dentist detects any issues, treatment can start right away.

The goal is to catch mouth cancer early when there is a higher chance of curing it. At times, additional tests may be carried out to examine if there are any abnormal cells in your mouth.

What to Expect During a Screening Test

You do not need to prepare for an oral cancer screening test. The screening is performed during your routine dental visits. However, there are different levels of mouth cancer screening, which include:

Visual Exam

Ideally, our dentist will start with the most basic exam. This exam involves a thorough examination of your oral cavity, including:

  • Your gums
  • The back of your throat
  • The inside of your cheeks
  • Your tongue, from all sides
  • The back of your throat
  • The roof of your mouth
  • Your lips, outside and inside

If you have dentures, our dentist will have to remove them and check beneath them.

Physical Exam

Our dentist might touch your head and cheeks, under the chin, around the jaw, and under the tongue. The purpose of the physical exam is to check for unusual masses. The exam will take around five minutes.

Our dentist will be looking for anything that looks unusual.

If these exams are not enough, our dentist in Edgartown, MA, might have to perform additional tests. The special tests may involve:

  • Oral cancer screening dye. You will have to rinse your mouth with a special blue dye before the visual exam. If there are any abnormal cells in your mouth, they will absorb the dye and appear blue.
  • Oral cancer screening light. Our dentist can also shine a special light in your mouth. When the light hits your mouth, the healthy cells will appear dark, but the abnormal cells will appear white.

In addition to the dye and light, our dentist can use a mirror, tongue compressor, and other specialized examining tools to perform a thorough examination.

After Screening

Suppose our dentist finds nothing abnormal during the oral exam. In that case, you may be asked to continue with the regular checkups for further screening, especially if you are in the high-risk category.

If there are signs of oral cancer, our dentist may recommend a follow-up visit after a few weeks to see if there is a change in the condition. You may also undergo a biopsy procedure so that we can determine whether there are any cancer cells.

Regular checkups are typically good not only for your oral health but also for your overall health. You can call our dentist at Edgartown Dental Group to schedule an appointment.

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