Oral Cancer Screening
Have you ever wondered why, during your dental visit, the hygienist or dentist move your tongue to the side and look under your tongue? Do they feel the tissues inside your mouth? The reason is that during your regular dental visit, they perform an oral cancer screening. This is completed to help identify any signs of oral cancer early on when the chances of a cure are favorable.
The American Dental Association says that at least 60% of people in the United States see a dentist yearly. By doing these regular screenings, there are hundreds of opportunities to help catch early stages of oral cancer.
It is important to be aware of some factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer. They are:
- Tobacco use. This includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, etc.
- Substantial Alcohol use;
- History of oral cancer; and
- History of exposure to the sun, which can increase the risk of oral cancer involving the lips.
If your hygienist or dentist discover any suspicious sites in your mouth, depending on the severity or type of finding, they may request a follow-up visit with you in a couple of weeks to see if the area is still present or if it has changed. They might also refer you directly to an oral surgeon to remove a small sample of the site and have it sent to a laboratory for testing.
There are certain signs/symptoms to be aware of that can indicate signs of oral cancer. These can include:
- A sore that does not go away;
- Red or white patches inside your mouth;
- Pain, tenderness or numbness in your mouth or around your lips;
- A lump, rough spot, or small worn down area;
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue;
- A change in the way your teeth feel against each other when you close your mouth; and
- Feeling like something is caught up in the throat, numbness, or changes in your voice.
If you have any of the following, or notice anything that does not feel or look “normal” to you, call your dental office for an examination as soon as possible.