Even with a good oral hygiene routine, many people will still experience tooth decay or gum disease at some point in their lives. Most dental healthcare professionals agree that a routine appointment every six months is the best way to prevent these dental diseases. Most appointments also include an oral cancer screening!
Oral Cancer Screenings
Why We Perform Oral Cancer Screenings
At Copper Canyon Dentistry, we offer oral cancer screenings mainly to give our patients peace of mind. It is important to note that screening is not a diagnostic procedure, but rather a precautionary examination. The goal is to ensure there are no cancerous or precancerous abnormalities.
In most cases, an oral cancer screening is performed as a part of your routine exam. However, we may recommend more frequent screenings if you are at a higher risk for the disease. Risk factors for oral cancers include:
- Tobacco use of any kind
- A previous diagnosis of oral cancer
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- A History of substantial sun exposure (increased risk of lip cancer)
People at a higher risk for oral cancer have the most to gain from screening. Talk with Dr. Hakam Al-Samarrai to learn more about the benefits of oral cancer screening. We can even provide you with ways to reduce your risk, such as advice on limiting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking.
The Comprehensive Exam
An oral cancer screening does not require any additional preparation before your appointment. Before your screening, we may ask you to take out any removable dental appliances so that we can get a better look at your mouth. The screening typically consists of two parts: a visual exam and a physical exam.
During the visual portion of your exam, we may use a light, mirror, and tongue depressor to get a better view of the soft tissues in the back of your mouth. We may also use specific screening instruments to reveal certain tissue abnormalities. In some cases, a specialized dye and an ultraviolet light can better illuminate areas of concern.
Your neck, lips, face, oral cavity, and nasal passages are all a part of the visual exam. We will be looking for any unusual swellings, bumps, discolorations, asymmetries, and ulcerations that may be cause for alarm. Cancerous abnormalities within the oral cavity can appear on gums, palate, tonsils, throat, tongue, inner cheeks, and other soft tissues.
During the physical portion of the exam, we will feel the underneath the chin, around the jaw, and inside the oral cavity for abnormal nodules or masses. Immobility of tissue that is normally mobile can also be an indicator of a serious problem. You will be asked if any physical contact creates pain or discomfort.
After Your Oral Cancer Screening
In most cases, an oral cancer screening will not raise any concerns. However, if we do find any abnormalities, we may suggest further testing to determine the cause of a particular symptom. We may also perform a biopsy to remove a sample of cells for laboratory testing. If any cancer is present, you may be referred to a specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment planning.