Routine checkups are essential because they can detect illnesses you may not know about. Usually, a physical examination consists of many tests and procedures. For example, your doctor may examine your heart, lungs, abdomen, and musculoskeletal system. However, these tests can only check your body for your overall health. On the other hand, dentists are better positioned to look for possible issues in your mouth, such as oral cancer.
Oral cancer screenings are done by dentists, periodontists, and dental hygienists. During the screening, your dentist may take photos or swabs of the inside of your lips, tongue, and gums. This is done to check for abnormalities that could be caused by oral cancer. Sometimes, you may be referred to a periodontist or oral surgeon if your dentist detects something that only they can help solve.
Few people know how oral cancer screenings work, so we’ll discuss the details in this article.
How It Works
Examining your mouth can detect abnormal tissue, which can signify oral cancer. Oral cancer is a malignant tumor that affects your lips, tongue, or the area around your mouth. It often spreads to other parts of your body, but not always.
Your dentist may use a small tool known as a periodontal probe to check for cancers in your mouth. One end of the tool is soft and made of rubber, while the other is firm and flat. The probe is used to detect abnormal tissue by feeling around your mouth. Your dentist is skilled in using the probe to find suspicious areas that signal cancer, so you shouldn’t have any worries.
What to Expect during an Oral Cancer Screening
Most dental exams take 30 or 40 minutes. However, if your dentist finds something abnormal during oral cancer screenings, the dentist may need to perform other tests to determine the best treatment.
For example, you may receive a biopsy to determine if the abnormal cells are malignant. This will involve taking a small sample of tissues from your mouth and sending it to an expert who can examine it for cancer. This and other tests are needed to find what’s causing the abnormal tissue.
Why It Matters
Aside from detecting diseases early, getting screened for oral cancer can also help create a stronger defense against illnesses and infections. Few people know that your immune system is stronger in the morning, so you may want to schedule a screening in the morning to give your body the maximum amount of time to fight off diseases.
Recognizing Precancerous Lesions
Usually, the early signs of oral cancer are caused by precancerous lesions. These are abnormal tissue that has the potential to develop into cancer if not treated. It’s essential to seek treatment for them so they can be prevented from spreading. This can ensure early detection and lower the risk of dying from oral cancer. Some signs of precancerous lesions are as follows:
- The appearance of a sore that doesn’t heal
- A lump under your tongue
- A white patch on your tongue that doesn’t go away
- A swollen lymph node near your neck
- Frequent or persistent swelling on your neck
- An enlarged tonsil or throat
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Your chances of oral cancer may increase because of the following factors:
- Gender (Men are more prone to getting oral cancer)
- Unhealthy Diet
- Excessive Sun Exposure
- Tobacco usage
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Heavy alcohol consumption
When to Get Screened for Oral Cancer
Oral cancer screenings are recommended for everyone, regardless of whether you have any symptoms of oral cancer. You should go for screenings at least once per year.
If your dentist finds evidence of oral cancer, you’ll need additional tests to determine your exact condition. Sometimes, a biopsy is necessary to determine if the abnormal tissue is cancerous. If this is the case, a biopsy or surgical removal will be required to determine if it’s cancerous cells. You may be referred to an oral surgeon or periodontist for further help if a biopsy is needed.
When you schedule an appointment with your dentist, don’t forget to ask the doctor about oral cancer screenings. This service can help you get checked out for oral cancer and prevent suffering. You should never take your health for granted, especially oral health, because it’s a window to your overall health.
If you’re looking for a dentist in Chelmsford, MA, Chelmsford Dental Specialists Group can help you!! Our dental professionals specialize in various dental practices, such as general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, and emergency dentistry, to ensure optimal oral health. Simply go to our website to request an appointment!