Why Oral Cancer Screenings Are Essential during Dental Exams

Why Oral Cancer Screenings Are Essential during Dental Exams

May 1, 2021

Everyone is aware that twice-yearly dental appointments are essential for professional cleanings and exams. However, most have no information that dentists are looking at more than just their teeth and gums when performing dental exams. If you visit your dentist for a routine appointment and find them inspecting your mouth and surrounding areas for signs of oral cancer, you shouldn’t be surprised. Checking for oral cancer during dental exams is a standard practice among dentists.

You may not realize why your dentist is wasting time looking for oral cancer when you are not displaying any symptoms. However, it would be helpful if you understood oral cancer screenings are merely a preventive measure to ensure you are not affected by this dreadful condition. In any case, the dentist doesn’t take more time or charge you extra fees for a preventive measure to confirm your oral health is in excellent condition. Want to learn more about why dentists perform oral cancer screenings and the symptoms and risk factors? Please continue reading this blog to educate yourself.

Why Do Dentists Perform Oral Cancer Screenings During a Dental Exam?

The United States reports approximately 37,000 diagnoses of oral cancer every year, as mentioned by the National Institutes of Health, which confirms oral cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer globally. As the survival rate among oral cancer patients is around 75 percent when the condition is detected early, getting regular oral cancer screenings is essential.

Thankfully oral cancer is easily detected by merely examining the mouth and surrounding areas. Dentists frequently examine people’s mouths twice a year, making a dental exam an excellent opportunity to check the mouth for cancer and diagnose the condition early.

What do Dentists Look for during Oral Cancer Screenings?

Oral cancer develops in many areas of the mouth and often appears as a sore or lesions that won’t go away. Family dentistry in Clearwater looks for white or red patches inside the mouth or lumps in the neck. Dentists examine the inside of the mouth during looking for any signs and feeling around the mouth with gloved hands trying to identify bumps. Dentists also feel under your chin and neck, looking for abnormalities.

As part of oral cancer screening, the dentist might ask whether you are affected by any oral cancer causes that inflict upon you the following:

  • Challenges moving your jaw and chewing.
  • Bad breath that does not subside.
  • Discomfort or numbness in the mouth.
  • Soreness or pain in the throat.
  • Weight loss.
  • Swelling in the jaw.
  • Voice changes.

Diagnosing Oral Cancer

If your dentist suspects oral cancer, they will either perform a biopsy for further testing in a laboratory or give you a referral to an oncologist, a specialist in diagnosing and treating cancers. If the biopsy reveals you have cancerous tissue, an imaging test or endoscopy is necessary to determine the extent of the damage.

Depending on the type of cancer in your mouth, the location, and the stage, different oral cancer treatment types are provided to treat the condition. Chemotherapy and radiation help eradicate cancer cells besides drug therapy. Immunotherapy is recommended if you have an advanced stage of cancer. Surgery is also an option to remove tumors or affected lymph nodes.

When you visit your dentist for a routine exam, please don’t assume they only look at your teeth and gums during the little time you spend at the dentist’s office. Regular dental exams are helpful to eliminate plaque and tartar buildup from your teeth and detect signs of other issues like gum disease. However, dentists attempt to catch even more dangerous conditions in your mouth because they are the professionals you visit twice a year to examine your mouth.

Dentists are aware, so should you, that early detection of any cancer is essential to treat it successfully and should willingly undergo oral cancer screenings as a restorative measure for your mouth. The dentist examines your mouth during the routine exam without revealing you are undergoing oral cancer screenings because you are likely to panic. However, the screenings are essential to ensure you don’t have any abnormal growths in your mouth that may be aggravated to consider if left untreated. You receive the screenings without having to spend an extra dollar or even time helping you ensure your mouth is in excellent condition.