Regular dental exams are not merely to keep your smile in check. The exams enable your dentist to screen you for oral cancer. The screening is not to scare you about this dreaded disease but is only a precautionary measure to detect oral cancer early when any treatment delivers better outcomes.
You must see your dentist at least once a year or better still every six months to keep your mouth healthy. The medical fraternity doesn’t agree on how often you should get oral cancer screenings. Some are of the opinion that the importance of oral cancer screening is only when you are at a higher risk of contracting the disease. They even point out specific risk factors that make you susceptible to oral cancer. They are:
If you have one of the risk factors mentioned above, you must discuss the oral cancer screening test with your dentist to ensure you aren’t affected by this condition.
Dentists use different oral cancer screening methods, and your dentist will likely give you a necessary exam including a thorough look at different parts of your mouth, including:
You are asked to remove any dental appliances like dentures to enable the dentist to check the tissue beneath them. Dentists may put one finger in your mouth under the tongue while keeping a couple of fingers on the skin under your chin. They move them around to feel the tissue between them. Your dentist also feels underneath your jaw. The entire exam requires under five minutes and shouldn’t cause any anxiety in you.
Dentists aim to look for lumps and spots to identify abnormalities: saliva covering the pink insides of your mouth. If you notice any abnormalities yourself, you can call your dentist for advice. In some cases, dentists perform an in-depth exam during your oral cancer screening by giving you a rinse with a blue dye before the exam. Any suspicious cells in your mouth absorb the pigment making it easier for the dentist to detect them.
If the dentist detects cancer, they request that you revisit them in a few weeks to observe if any changes have occurred. Dentists may even suggest a biopsy which they conduct themselves or provide a referral to a specialist treating cancerous conditions. A small piece of tissue is taken by the professional from the troublesome area and sent to a laboratory for testing to detect cancer cells.
You must bear in mind that any spots or lesions detected by your dentist do not mean they are cancerous. In most cases, they are benign tumors that disappear by themselves with time. However, if any malignant cells are detected during the laboratory test, your chances of a cure increase significantly because you have more treatment options available to you.
When dentists perform oral cancer screening, you may not even be aware of it as the exam is conducted during your routine appointment for cleanings. It is a preventive measure to ensure you are not affected by cancerous or precancerous lesions in your mouth, leading to oral cancer. It is why many medical professionals disagree that healthy patients must undergo oral cancer screening. Screening for oral cancer hasn’t proven as an effective method of saving lives. It is merely a measure where your dentist considers your risk factors and performs the check to ensure your mouth is in optimal health. Most importantly, the dentist doesn’t charge you anything for the oral cancer screening but includes it with your regular dental exam, so you don’t have to worry about paying extra charges for a problem that you possibly believe can never happen to you. Therefore if your dentist informs you about screening for oral cancer, do not hesitate to undergo the exam, which is completed under five minutes, to confirm your mouth is in good condition.