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From Beginning to End: What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening?

April 2, 2024

Filed under: Uncategorized — drkics @ 5:05 pm
a person receiving an oral cancer screening

According to the American Cancer Society, as of 2024, there are an estimated 58,450 cases of oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in the United States. These numbers may largely be attributed to risky lifestyle habits and behaviors (i.e., smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, HPV, etc.); however, some basic demographic factors may also be to blame (i.e., men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women). Since early detection is essential for a higher survival rate, read on to discover the importance of oral cancer screenings and how they are performed by a qualified dentist.

Why Perform Oral Cancer Screenings During a Dental Checkup?

Many dentists incorporate oral cancer screenings into patients’ regular dental checkups because of how quick and easy they are to perform.

As a preventive solution that is designed to detect the earliest signs of oral cancer, dentists strongly encourage patients to maintain regular six-month exams and cleanings so that these screenings can also be performed.

The reality is that oral cancer does not discriminate based on age, sex, or ethnicity. It can develop in anyone at any time, and many of the symptoms are dismissed or overlooked. However, dentists are trained to spot potentially problematic areas of the mouth and throat that might point to oral cancer. They are essentially a patient’s first line of defense.

What Are the Normal Symptoms of Oral Cancer?

Some of the most common symptoms associated with oral cancer include:

  • Red and white patches on the gums
  • Oral sores that do not heal
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarse
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Loose teeth
  • Lumps on the neck or toward the back of the throat
  • Lumps around the lips, mouth, or cheek
  • Jaw swelling or pain
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening?

When preparing for an oral cancer screening, the most important thing to remember is that it is quick and completely painless. Most patients never even know it is happening.

To start, your dentist will perform a visual examination of your mouth and nearby facial structures to check for any visible signs of cancer (i.e., lesions, sores, etc.). Your throat, lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, neck, and head will all be thoroughly examined. The dentist will likely use a small light, tongue depressor, and mirror to check these areas inside the mouth.

Once this part is complete, we will move on to the physical evaluation, which includes feeling your jaw and lymph nodes to ensure there are no lumps or abnormalities.

If your dentist discovers any areas that are concerning, they will order a biopsy, as this will better identify whether it is oral cancer.

Oral cancer screenings don’t require additional time or money, so the next time your dentist reminds you of your six-month dental exam and cleaning, make sure you keep your appointment – it might just save your life.

About the Practice
Westgate Dental Care consists of a team of highly qualified dental experts who understand the intricacies of dental care and its effects on the body. Providing oral cancer screenings as part of the preventive services offered in-house, patients can expect fast and painless examinations that can ultimately be lifesaving. If you would like to learn more about the importance of oral cancer screenings, visit our website or call us at (847) 908-3684.