Oral Cancer Screening
Regular dental checkups aren’t just for a healthy, radiant smile. An often-overlooked part of dental exams includes oral cancer screenings. While everyone should get screenings at least once a year, those who are considered high-risk for disease should be more determined to get one more often. This will help detect early signs of oral cancer, giving you the highest chance of survival. If you want to get an oral cancer screening, our professionals at Stansell Dentistry Associates can provide you with the most successful exam and can help you determine how often you should get them to ensure optimal oral health.
Why Would You Need an Oral Cancer Screening?
While every person should get oral cancer screenings every year, it is important for those highly susceptible to oral diseases to get them early-on and more frequently than those who are at a lower risk. While some disagree on how often candidates should get these screenings, it is often agreed that a certain subset should get checked out. Those who use tobacco products, such as smoking, using snuff or chewing tobacco as well as those who have had previous cases of oral cancer are inherently higher risk cases. However, less well-known factors include those who regularly consume alcohol, spend too much time in the sun, have certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPC), and chewing betel quid are also high-risk. If you feel any of these apply to you, it’s best to ask for a screening test at your next dentist appointment with us.
Risks Involved With Oral Cancer Screenings
While oral cancer screenings are relatively safe, they might have potential inherited risks. If you get an oral cancer screening, you may be asked to follow-up with additional screenings and testing. This is especially true for those who have sores in their mouth. While sores are often noncancerous, an oral exam cannot determine which of those sores are cancerous versus noncancerous. If your dentist finds a sore to be unusual, it may require further testing to determine if it has cancerous cells. This requires undergoing a biopsy, where abnormal cells are removed from the sore and tested for cancerous cells.
Oral cancer screenings, while reliable, are not definitive. There may be instances where areas of abnormal cells go completely unnoticed if they do not develop into sores. Therefore, possible cancerous or precancerous lesions may be undetectable for years. This also brings up a secondary point: oral cancer screenings are not proven to save lives. Routine screenings do not necessarily reduce the number of deaths caused by oral cancer. However, regular screenings can detect early signs of cancer in some cases, giving you a better chance of treating it before it grows too large to manage.
How Is the Screening Test Performed?
Oral cancer screenings are fairly simple and often take less than five minutes to perform. Our dentists will do a physical exam of your lips, both the inside and outside, the back of your throat, the roof of your mouth, your gums, your tongue, and the inside of your cheeks. For those with dentures, a dentist will also check the tissue underneath them. A preliminary check may also include checking your chin and the surrounding tissue, as well as checking underneath the jawline with their fingers.
The main priority during an oral cancer screening is to look for anything unusual in your spit and to check areas for lumps or spots. If we notice something unusual, you may be asked to rinse your mouth with a blue dye. This allows unusual cells in your mouth to absorb the dye, making it easier to check.
Getting regular oral cancer screenings does not reduce your chance of getting cancer, but it can be a good preventive measure regarding later stage cancers. If you feel like you need an oral cancer screening, call Stansell Dentistry Associates at 984-477-0177 to schedule an appointment today.