What is an Oral Cancer Screening
If you have never gotten an oral cancer screening from your dentist, then you should definitely do so, especially if you are at a high risk. For example, if you are a smoker of tobacco products, or you chew tobacco products, getting an oral cancer screening is the best way to ensure that your oral health is cancer-free.
What Are Oral Cancer Screenings?
These types of oral screenings are performed by your dentist to search for specific signs of any precancerous conditions and cancer in general that may be present in your mouth. They identify mouth cancer at an early stage to ensure that treatment will be possible and effective, and, if cancer is found, how far along it is, what your treatment options will be, etc.
While oral cancer screenings are a separate procedure entirely, your dentist checks for basic signs of oral cancer, or developing oral cancer, each time you have an appointment, which is why it’s so important to regularly visit your dentist, all other reasons aside.
How Do Oral Cancer Screenings Work?
Oral cancer screenings are conducted by physically examining the inside and the outside of your cheeks, gums, and the entire area of your mouth from front to back. The floor and the roof of your mouth will be especially looked at, as well as your tongue, lymph nodes, and your jaw, which are typically where signs of oral cancer are found.
Outside of your mouth, your facial area will also be inspected for signs of swelling and asymmetry, and you will be asked about your drinking and smoking habits, which are the largest factors when it comes to being at risk for oral cancer. Your overall lifestyle, any medications that you are taking, and any specific health conditions you may have will also be put into question to ensure the best results, mostly because the following affects your head, neck, and mouth.
You should expect your dentist to use a scope that incorporates a light to reveal any precancerous and/or cancerous lesions on the darker areas of your mouth. These devices are also known as “Velscopes”.
Who is at Risk for Oral Cancer?
People who are at a high risk for oral cancer are those who can relate to any, or all, of the following points listed below:
- Those who smoke cigarettes, pipes, cigars, or chew tobacco
- Alcoholics and heavy recreational drinkers
- Those who have a history of a significant amount of sun exposure, as it increases your risk of developing lip cancer
- Those who have had a previous diagnosis of oral cancer in the past
If you have or do any of the points listed above, ensure that you are regularly visiting your dentist as you should be.
How Often Should I Have an Oral Cancer Screening?
Even if you are not a high-risk patient, everyone should be having an oral cancer every six months, which is also when you should be visiting the dentist in general to ensure your oral health is up to a good, hygienic standard.