The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings during Dental Exams

The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings during Dental Exams

May 5, 2022

You visit your dentist every six months because they suggest you come in for dental exams and cleanings to watch for cavities and gum disease. However, you express surprise when your dentist looks at other parts of your mouth and face and wonder what they are trying to examine.

You are probably unaware that your dentist is your first line of defense against a devastating condition, oral cancer, and performs an oral cancer screening near you whenever you visit them for dental exams. You might think you are not vulnerable to oral cancer and don’t need the screenings your dentist provides. However, are you willing to risk this disease unknowingly merely because you believe oral cancer cannot affect you? Let us look at why you must receive these exams whenever you visit your dentist.

What Experts Think about These Screenings?

The American Dental Association recommends six-monthly dental checkups to ensure you have your teeth cleaned professionally besides examinations for early signs of tooth decay and gum disease. However, dentists also use these routine visits to check for signs of oral cancer.

Oral cancer generally makes an appearance as a growth or sore that doesn’t go away and includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheek, mouths floor, soft and hard palate, and throat. Oral cancer becomes life-threatening if it is not detected and treated early.

Screening for oral cancer is an essential part of all dental checkups because dentists evaluate the oral cavity, including the soft tissues, during every dental exam. Therefore there are no downsides to getting screened frequently for oral cancer. In reality, the dentist completes the screening in under five minutes to leave you perplexed at what they were looking at besides your teeth and gums.

Happenings during Screenings for Oral Cancer

Before your dental exam, an assistant from the practice will update your medical history. The exercise determines whether you have any new disease diagnosis or take any new medications since your last visit. You will likely be required to answer questions about risk factors for oral cancer smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. If you are a smoker and drink alcohol, you are at a higher risk of oral cancer.

Men develop oral cancer more than women making it the sixth-highest among all cancers in men. Your dentist will also inquire into your current overall health, including any dental issues. It helps if you don’t hold yourself back from sharing any questions or concerns in your mind.

When screening for oral cancer, the dentist will examine areas inside and outside your mouth. The exam also includes looking at your head and neck besides your lips, cheeks, tongue, palate, gum tissues, and floor of the mouth. The dentist looks for signs of lumps, sores, and discoloration. If the dentist detects suspicious areas like lesions, they might recommend you to undergo a biopsy or refer you to an oral surgeon.

Should You Wait to Receive These Exams?

It would help if you remained proactive with your dental appointments and scheduled regular visits to your dentist for dental exams. However, you can also see your dentist if you notice any lesions in your mouth that don’t clear up within two weeks. You can look for red and white patches, ulcers, lumps, or other growths before you contact your dentist.

If you experience challenges when chewing, swallowing, or speaking besides pain and numbness or changes in your bite, a visit to your dentist or a physician right away is warranted. You mustn’t wait for the symptom to become painful before contacting your dental professional.

You must understand that pain is not a predictable indicator of any problem. Therefore if you notice any lesions in your mouth that aren’t painful, please do not consider it a benign problem.

Having regular dental exams from the dentist in Kearney helps eliminate or detect problems with your teeth and gums. However, the dental professional is also in an optimal position to see early signs of oral cancer when any treatment provided delivers excellent outcomes. The screening for oral cancer isn’t scary and is included in your dental exam confirming that you won’t have to pay extra for the screening. Thankfully it is a preventive measure to ensure you are not affected by this devastating condition that can bring upon you life-threatening situations.

If you don’t understand the importance of screening for oral cancer, we suggest you schedule an appointment with Platte Valley Dental Clinic to receive a comprehensive exam for your dental and overall health.

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