Over 54,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed annually, making it one of the most widespread and problematic varieties of cancer out there. But despite its prevalence, oral cancer is also among the most preventable types of cancer, too—and with the help of your dentist coupled with your own willingness to remain diligent and proactive, you can effectively prevent the illness from threatening your livelihood! Here’s more from your dentist about the importance of oral cancer screenings during routine preventive care, along with what you can expect during these visits.
Why Oral Cancer Screenings Are Essential
An oral cancer screening is simply an examination carried out by your dentist to look for signs of cancer or precancerous conditions. With oral cancer, prevention and early detection are both crucial—the sooner signs of the illness are scoped out, the simpler it is to treat them and prevent things from worsening.
These safe, noninvasive screenings are generally performed during routine checkups, and your dentist might perform a physical examination in addition to utilizing special tools and equipment to thoroughly inspect your oral structures. Your dentist is the expert here, and they’ll be on the lookout for problematic symptoms including but not limited to swelling, bumps, sores, white patches, etc.
It’s also worth noting that oral cancer screenings do not treat oral cancer—they simply identify the condition so that it can be treated. That said, people with a higher risk of the disease, including those who smoke or use tobacco, consume alcohol frequently, or have an existing history of cancer, will undoubtedly benefit from these screenings.
What to Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer screenings often include two separate stages: the initial visual examination, followed by the physical examination. Wielding various tools including a small light, mirror, and tongue depressor, your dentist will check the inside of your mouth, face, neck, lips, and even your nose for any asymmetries and signs of the disease.
They’ll also conduct a physical examination; they’ll need to feel your head and cheeks around your jaw, underneath your chin, and inside your oral cavity. Often, technology is instrumental throughout this part of the process; for example, screening devices such as a VELscope utilize blue light and can be used to identify precancerous cells that are undetectable by the naked eye.
If something problematic is discovered, a biopsy is usually taken and sent to a lab for further analysis. You might also be asked to come in for a follow-up visit so your dentist can check the status of the abnormal area and determine the next move.
About the Author
Dr. Carol Morgan received her dental doctorate from the Medical College of Virginia School of Dentistry and has been practicing in the Hampton Roads area ever since. Her practice is thrilled to provide an exceptional level of dental care, offering a wide range of preventive, cosmetic, and restorative treatment options that are certain to help you achieve and maintain optimal oral health. If you have any questions about the blog or need to schedule a visit for you or someone you know, feel free to contact Dr. Morgan through her practice’s website or by telephone for assistance: (757) 320-5645.