Visiting the dentist regularly is critical for maintaining a healthy mouth and a beautiful smile. But they’ll also perform an oral cancer exam, which is essential to your overall wellbeing. Oral cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer diagnosed, accounting for approximately 5% of all cases in the U.S. However, many patients are unaware what the exam for this disease entails. Here’s some important information about these screenings.
What to Know About Oral Cancer Exams
Why are oral cancer exams necessary?
Oral cancer is estimated to cause thousands of deaths each year. Symptoms are generally detected in the late stage of the disease, once it has already begun to spread to other parts of the body. As in most cancer cases, the greatest chances for survival are when a diagnosis occurs early. Thus, oral cancer exams are crucial for discovering and treating abnormalities before the condition worsens.
What do they involve?
Screenings are non-invasive and involve your dentist or hygienist visually examining all parts of the mouth and the areas around it. Typically, they’ll spend time looking over the tongue, cheek lining, lips, throat, gums, and roof of the mouth for any signs of lesions, swelling, or think white and red patches of tissue.
They’ll also check the neck for enlarged lymph nodes. Some dentists will use a fluorescent light or rinse the mouth with a blue dye to expose abnormalities.
How often do I need one?
In most cases, oral cancer exams are performed every six months at each recommended dental visit. Although, if they have concerns or you have a higher risk of developing the disease, the dentist may suggest you have more frequent screenings. Factors that can increase your risk include tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, significant sun exposure, and a previous cancer diagnosis of the head or neck.
What if I need further examination?
If your dentist notices irregularities during an exam, they might want to see you again in a few weeks to see if the suspicious areas have improved or changed. If they feel it needs immediate attention, you may be advised to have a biopsy done of the area to test if the tissue is cancerous.
Oral cancer exams play a vital role in the preventive care provided at Nayaug Family Dental in South Glastonbury, CT. Dr. Brian Chiffer and his team of dental professionals utilize advanced industry technology to identify areas within the mouth that may be cause for concern and are able to determine what action to take. They offer a welcoming and comfortable office environment where you can receive all the services you need to protect your oral health. Call (860) 633-6167 or visit their website to schedule an appointment.