Designer Smiles

All You Need to Know About Oral Cancer Exams

A man on a dentist's chair

Oral cancer screenings are vital in aiding treatment. However, many people don’t know what they entail.

Oral cancer screening involves physical mouth exams by dentists to check for any signs of cancer or precancerous conditions. Oral cancer screening aims to identify the signs when in its early stages since oral cancer in its advanced stages can be fatal and not treatable.

Most dentists perform an oral cancer screening during routine dental exams and cleanings. Other than physical examinations, dentists can carry out additional tests to identify the growth of abnormal cells in your mouth. The dentist will then refer you to an oral surgeon or oncologist for further diagnostics and treatments.

Why Do I Need Regular Oral Cancer Screenings?

The main aim of regular oral cancer screenings is to identify cancerous and precancerous in your mouth at the early stages. Since oral cancer screening is treatable at the early stages, you will receive treatments in due time and reduce the risks of fatality.

  • Smoking tobacco products since they contain tar
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • A previous oral cancer diagnosis
  • Increased exposure to the lips causing oral cancer
  • Chewing betel quid which is a smokeless tobacco mixture

Also, oral cancers have been associated with a sexually transmitted disease known as human papillomavirus.

If you are at risk of developing oral cancer due to the factors above, you can talk to your dentist on how to reduce the risk. Once you discuss some of the factors that increase your risk of developing oral cancer with your dentist, the dentist will be able to devise the best tests for you.

What to Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening Procedure

Before an oral exam in Springs, FL, you don’t need any special preparations other than booking an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist screens your mouth for oral cancer during the regular dental exams and cleanings. However, your dentist can still conduct an oral cancer screening only if you have had a dental exam recently.

During the screening procedure, your dentist will look inside your mouth to check for red or white patches and mouth sores. However, sometimes mouth sores might not be signs of oral cancer. Using gloves, your dentist will then feel you mouth tissues to check for lumps or other abnormalities that are signs of oral cancer.

If you wear dentures, your dentist can ask you to remove them to check the tissue beneath them. The dentist can also check the back of the mouth for lumps. Our dentist in Coral Springs, FL, also recommends you to contact a dentist near you when you feel lumps in your mouth.

Apart from physical exams, your dentist in Coral Springs can carry out the following tests:

  • Screening dye. When carrying out the test, your dentist will rinse your mouth using a blue dye. The abnormal cells in your mouth will take up the dye and appear blue, thus easier to identify.
  • Oral cancer screening light. The dentist can also use light to identify abnormal tissues. When the dentist passes a light on your mouth tissues, the abnormal ones will appear to be white while the healthy ones appear to be darker.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

The signs of oral cancer include:

  • Sores in your mouth that don’t heal
  • Bleeding that continues for a week in your mouth
  • Lumps in the mouth and neck
  • Dramatic voice changes
  • Numbness on your lower lips

What If Your Dentist Discovers Signs of Oral Cancer?

If you have abnormalities that suggest being cancer, your dentist can schedule another appointment after few weeks. If the signs are convincing, the dentist can take a biopsy and send the specimen to a lab to test for cancer. Alternatively, the dentist can refer you to an oral surgeon or oncologist.

The tests might not come out positive. However, early diagnosis means early and effective treatment.

Preventing Oral Cancer

According to our dentist at Designer Smiles, FL, you can reduce the risks of oral cancer by doing the following:

  • Avoid all tobacco products since smoking cause oral and neck cancer while smokeless products cause leukoplakia that grows to be cancerous
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Go for regular dental exams and cleanings at least twice a year
  • Get human papillomavirus vaccination
  • Wear a protective lip bum to shield your mouth from the sun