Screening for Oral Cancer

Visiting twice yearly for routine dental checkups isn’t only about the health and appearance of your teeth and gums; it is critical for your overall health. Dental exams give your dental team the opportunity to check for oral cancer. Even though cases of oral cancer are increasing, when detected early it can be successfully treated.

Just a Few Minutes of Your Time

Patients normally think of routine dental exam appointments as checking for tooth decay and gum disease. Although these are certainly very important, oral cancer is a serious disease that can put your life on the line. A dental exam will only take a few minutes of your time, but it can actually save your life!

What To Expect

During your regular dental exam, your dental team will be checking your teeth, mouth, and gums for the usual signs of tooth decay and periodontal disease. They can also perform an oral cancer screening, which involves a manual and visual examination of your mouth, jaw, neck and face.

What We Look For

Some things that we will be looking for include the appearance of lumps, sores, lesions, or other types of abnormalities. If anything suspicious is detected, we may take a sample and have it sent to a dental lab to be tested. You may also be asked if you have a chronically sore throat, pain within your mouth, or discomfort near your ear or neck. Different dental instruments can be used during an oral cancer screening. If something suspicious is detected, we may perform an oral biopsy to identify the lesion.

Oral Cancer Awareness

In between dental exams, there are some ways that you can perform a self examination at home to check for any early signs of oral cancer, which include:

  • Rough areas of soft tissue
  • White or velvety red patches within the mouth
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Persistent bleeding
  • Difficulty swallowing and chewing
  • Unexplained weight loss

Screenings Save Lives

If oral cancer is present, it is critical to identify cancerous lesions. Although oral cancer is a serious disease, treatment has an extremely high rate of success when this cancer is detected early. Lesions are easier to remove when oral cancer is detected at an early stage.

As with all types of cancer, the risk is that the cancer might spread to the lymph nodes and throughout the body, threatening the organs and the patient’s life. So early detection is extremely critical.

Frequency of Oral Cancer Screenings

For healthy adults, it is normally recommended that they undergo a screening for oral cancer at least once a year. For those who are at higher risk, or have previously had cancer, more frequent oral cancer screenings may be recommended.

Schedule Your Appointment

If you’ve been putting off your regular dental exam and cleaning appointment, we encourage you to contact our office to schedule one soon. f

Thanks for your support!

– Dr. Houlik


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