How Does a Dentist Do an Oral Cancer Screening?

How Does a Dentist Do an Oral Cancer Screening?

August 1, 2023

Visiting the dentist for regular checkups and cleanings is important for maintaining good oral health and screening for oral cancer. Oral cancer screening in Pocahontas, IA, is a quick and simple procedure your dentist will perform during routine dental visits. Oral cancer is highly treatable if caught early, so these screenings are critical.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is cancer that develops in the mouth or throat tissues. It most commonly begins as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. Oral cancer most often occurs on the lips, gums, tongue, inner cheeks, roof of the mouth, and throat. If not caught early, it can spread to other head and neck areas.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

While anyone can develop oral cancer, certain risk factors can increase your chances:

  • Tobacco use – chewing tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, etc.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • HPV infection
  • Age – most common in those over 40
  • Gender – more common in men
  • Sun exposure – especially on the lips
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables

If you have any of these risk factors, getting an oral cancer screening is especially important.

The Oral Cancer Screening Process

An oral cancer screening is fast and straightforward. During your regular dental exam, your dentist in Pocahontas will carefully inspect your entire mouth, including tongue, cheeks, gums, palate, and throat. We check for sores, lumps, growths, white/red patches, or tissue changes that could indicate oral cancer.

We will feel/palpate all areas of your mouth and neck, checking for any abnormalities in texture or lymph nodes. Let your dentist know if you experience tenderness or pain during the exam.

If we notice any suspicious areas, we may do a brush biopsy. This involves using a small brush to collect cells from the abnormal area, which can then be sent to a lab for analysis under a microscope. This allows us to determine if any cancerous or precancerous cells are present.

Why Get Screened for Oral Cancer?

While oral cancer screenings are quick and simple, they can be lifesaving. When caught in its early stages, oral cancer treatment is often minimally invasive and has a high survival rate. More advanced cancers require extensive, complex treatment like radiation and chemotherapy.

Oral cancer often doesn’t cause pain in its early stages, so patients are unaware as it develops. Screening by your dentist can detect it even if you don’t notice anything amiss. Even if you don’t display any major risk factors, it’s wise to get screened regularly to ensure nothing gets overlooked.

How Often Should You Get Screened?

The American Dental Association recommends that all adults undergo oral cancer screenings during their annual dental exams. Those with risk factors may need more frequent screenings, such as every six months. Visit your dentist’s office near you and discuss how often you should be screened based on your medical history and lifestyle habits.

At Pocahontas Dental Associates, we prioritize oral cancer screenings during all routine exams and cleanings. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about your risk for oral cancer. We’re here to help protect your oral health.