How Your Dentist Screens You For Oral Cancer

Posted on: 10 August 2017

One important benefit of having regular dental examinations is that your dentist also screens you for oral cancer at the same time. This plays a major role in the early detection of a cancerous lesion so it can be treated while the cancer is still in the early stages. Here is a look at how the cancer screening process works.

The Oral Examination

When the dentist looks for signs of oral cancer, your entire mouth is examined. While he or she may focus on your teeth and gums when looking for cavities, the tongue, back of the throat, and insides of the mouth are checked for signs of cancer. Your dentist also checks the roof of your mouth and your lips. In addition, your tongue is extended so the base can be examined as well as the underside.

When the exam is finished, the sides, top, back, and bottom of your mouth have been examined on the inside, and your dentist also feels along the outside of your jaw and lymph nodes for signs of swelling.

Signs To Look For

When your dentist looks for signs of cancer, any abnormality is noted. It might be a white or red sore. It could be a thickened, purple area on your lip or a lesion under your tongue. Anything other than healthy pink tissue is questioned. However, it is quite common to have abnormalities in your mouth that are unrelated to cancer. You'll be asked about symptoms you've had and whether you've had an infection or injury that might cause the discoloration or sore.

Testing For Oral Cancer

Your dentist can't tell by visual inspection alone if an ulcer or discolored area is cancer. Since it is more likely to be from an injury or some other cause, your dentist may recommend a watch and wait period. If so, you'll return to have the spot examined again in a couple of weeks. If the lesion persists, then a biopsy may be recommended to check for cancer.

The biopsy could entail scraping the area to collect cells for examination under a microscope, or it could involve cutting part of the tissue from your mouth or removing tissue with a needle. The biopsy will probably be carried out by your medical doctor who will arrange proper treatment if cancer is found.

When your dentist catches oral cancer in its early stages, you might not have any symptoms at all. However, if you do notice a sore in your mouth that doesn't heal or if you have unusual sensations or lumps in your mouth, throat, or on your lips, be sure to let your doctor or dentist know so you can be screened for cancer.

For more information, contact a local dental clinic, such as Naas Family Dentistry.


About Marcel and the Dentist

Hi, my name is Marcel. Welcome to my site! I started it to help others learn about children's dentistry. Most of us don't remember dentist trips from our early childhood. Maybe we didn't even really care about our teeth until we started losing baby teeth. In my case, I became interested in children's dentistry as a young father. When my kids were young, I was a student, and our insurance did not cover visits to the dentist. Although my wife and I tried to teach our kids good hygiene on our own, it was difficult. When we we finally able to take them to the dentist, my little girls were scared and didn't know what was going on. Luckily, they appreciate the dentist now that they are older, but their first experiences helped teach me more about the importance of children's dentistry. Hopefully you can learn from my experiences!