Your oral health is more than just maintaining a bright smile and healthy teeth; it’s also about detecting potential health issues, such as oral cancer, in their early stages. Oral cancer screening is an integral part of your regular dental checkup, as it can help identify any suspicious signs or symptoms that may require further evaluation. This article will explore the importance of oral cancer screening and what you can expect during your dental checkup.
The Significance of Oral Cancer Screening:
Oral cancer refers to cancers that develop in any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, throat, and the floor of the mouth. Detecting oral cancer in its initial stages is critical for successful treatment and improved prognosis. According to the Cancer Council, It is estimated that more than 600 people were diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2022. The average age at diagnosis is 67 years old.
However, with early detection and timely intervention, the survival rate can significantly improve.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer:
Tobacco & alcohol are the main risk factors. However, a few other factors can increase the risk of developing oral cancer, including prolonged sun exposure, a family history of cancer, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Even though these risk factors can heighten the chances of developing oral cancer, it’s essential to remember that anyone can be affected, regardless of their lifestyle.
Oral Cancer Screening during Dental Checkups:
During your routine dental checkup, your dentist will conduct an oral cancer screening as part of their comprehensive examination. The process is quick, painless, and non-invasive, making it a vital step in your overall oral health assessment.
1. Visual Examination: The first step in oral cancer screening comprises of a visual examination of the oral cavity. Your dentist will inspect your lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, and the upper and lower insides of your mouth for any abnormalities. They will be looking for red or white patches, sores that do not heal within two weeks, lumps, or other unusual changes.
2. Physical Palpation: Your dentist will use their gloved hands to feel for any lumps or irregularities in the soft tissues of your mouth and throat. They will also examine the lymph nodes in your neck for any signs of swelling or tenderness.
3. Dental Tools: In some cases, dental tools may be used to move your tongue and check for hidden or hard-to-see lesions. These tools help your dentist get a better view of all the areas in your mouth.
4. Additional Tests: Depending on the dentist’s evaluation and any findings during the visual examination, they may recommend further tests, such as a brush test or a tissue biopsy. These tests can provide more detailed information and aid in confirming or ruling out the presence of cancerous or precancerous cells.
What to Expect During the Screening:
Oral cancer screening is a routine procedure, and you do not need to prepare anything special beforehand. It’s usually conducted during your regular dental checkup, which is recommended every six months.
During the screening process, your dentist will explain the steps and answer any questions you may have. It’s essential to inform your dentist about any concerns or symptoms you might be experiencing, such as persistent mouth pain, difficulty swallowing, or changes in your voice, even if they seem unrelated to your teeth.
Oral cancer screening is an important part of your regular dental checkup that helps detect potential signs of oral cancer in its early stages. Early detection can significantly decrease the chances of premature death due to cancer while ensuring a quick recovery. Remember to attend your regular dental appointments and communicate any concerns to your dentist. Together, we can maintain not just your dazzling smile but also your overall health and well-being.