April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, which is a time when health professionals of all kinds go out of their way to educate their patients about this all-too-common disease.
The best thing you can do to improve your chances if you contract oral cancer is to catch it early. If you have a dental checkup coming up soon, you may be pleased to learn that oral cancer screenings are routine at preventive appointments. Here’s what that kind of exam is likely to entail.
For the most part, oral cancer screenings are incredibly simple. They’re usually a routine part of a much broader checkup and are completed within seconds.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will briefly look inside your mouth for any abnormalities, like sores or discoloration. They’ll also run gloved hands across your neck to check for lumps. Finally, they’ll touch the inside of your mouth to check for any lumps or protrusions.
Then you’re done! If you blinked, you may have missed it. That said, even this much will help you rest assured that there isn’t any serious disease lurking in your mouth.
While this exam is usually plenty, some dentists use specialized tests to supplement their results. One common one is oral cancer screening dye, which patients are asked to swish around in their mouth before an exam. Any abnormalities in your mouth may then appear blue, making them easier to see.
There are also specialized lights that can be shined in the mouth to facilitate the exam. This light can make abnormal tissue appear white, while the rest of the mouth will look dark.
If your dentist finds anything during their exam, the first thing they’ll do is schedule a follow-up a few weeks later. There are all kinds of conditions that can produce cancerous-looking sores; the primary difference is that cancerous abnormalities will not heal over time.
If the issue is still there at the follow-up, your dentist will likely want to do a biopsy, where some of the tissue is sent to the lab for testing. In some cases, you may also be referred to a cancer specialist for this biopsy.
Oral cancer is best addressed early on. Be vigilant, and you can ensure that your oral health will stay in the best state possible!
About the Author
Dr. Jamie Guthrie has a true passion for dental work, and patients can tell from the moment they meet her. Her clinical expertise means that she can help all kinds of patients get the care they need! Dr. Guthrie received her dental doctorate from the University of Oklahoma School of Dentistry, and is happy to complete over 50 hours of continuing education each year.
If you have any questions about oral cancer, she can be reached at her website or by phone at (580) 224-9600.