Dentists today understand the value of oral cancer screening. That’s why your routine dental exam includes this vital service. That said, by regularly visiting your dentist, you can catch possible oral cancer early. Therefore, you have a greater chance of curing this disease.

How Does the Dentist Perform an Oral Cancer Screening?

Close-up of female with open mouth during oral cancer screening at the dentist

Your dentist looks for oral cancer during a routine exam. The goal of the oral cancer screening is finding precancerous conditions or cancer in your mouth early. This screening typically takes place during a regular examination. However, if your dentist finds signs of oral cancer, you may undergo additional tests of abnormal cells.

Screening for this cancer holds particular weight if you have a high risk of oral cancer. Risk factors for the disease include:

  • Smoking and other tobacco use
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • History of oral cancer
  • High levels of sun exposure in the past

If your risk for oral cancer is high or this disease has affected others in your family, ask your dentist about oral cancer screening. You also need to take steps to reduce your risk of the disease. Quit smoking and avoid drinking alcohol to help increase your chances of avoiding this cancer.

Oral cancer screening can’t prevent you from developing the disease. Nevertheless, screening helps your dentist find this cancer early. The earlier you discover any cancer, the better your chances for recovery.

However, limits to oral cancer screening do exist. For example, your dentist may not immediately know if a sore is cancerous or non-cancerous. Screening exams cannot distinguish between normal cells and abnormal cells. Determining if cells are abnormal requires additional testing, such as a biopsy.

Unfortunately, oral cancer screening does not find all types of mouth cancers. Sometimes small cancers or precancerous cells remain undetected. That said, finding any cancer early certainly improves your chances of beating the disease.

What to Expect from Your Mouth Cancer Screening

You need no preparation for screening. With this in mind, a routine dental exam provides the perfect opportunity for your dentist to check your mouth for signs of the condition.

During your checkup, your dentist examines all of the surfaces in your mouth, checking tissues for abnormal appearance. He looks for red patches, white patches, or sores. The dentist sometimes feels the tissues in your mouth with gloved hands. This part of the exam allows him to check for lumps or unusual textures.

If you wear removable dentures, you must remove those for a thorough examination. The dentist must check the tissues typically covered by the dentures.

Sometimes these oral cancer exams include other types of tests, too. There are two common methods. The first involves rinsing your mouth with a blue dye that temporarily stains abnormal cells or tissues for easy detection. The second method involves shining a bright light into your mouth, which shows abnormal tissues as white.

In the event that your dentist discovers questionable cells or signs of mouth cancer, you’ll need a follow-up visit. This second appointment allows some time for the cells to change or improve. If the unusual tissues remain, the dentist takes a biopsy sample for lab review. Alternatively, your dentist may refer you to an oral cancer specialist for diagnosis and treatment.

Screening for Oral Problems in North Mississippi

Your Tupelo, Mississippi dentist at North Mississippi Family Dentistry understands the fear of cancer, including oral cancer. Everyone benefits from the extra ounce of security, especially those who use alcohol or tobacco on a regular basis.

Other services provided by North Mississippi Family Dentistry include:

North Mississippi Family Dentistry cares about your family’s best oral health. Start experiencing the dental care you deserve for your brightest, healthiest smiles. Call North Mississippi Family Dentistry now at 662-635-8051 for a consultation.