Dental Tips Blog


Oral Cancer Screenings

Posted in Oral Cancer

The American Cancer Society believes that there are nearly 30,000 diagnosed oral cancer cases each year. Screening and early intervention for oral cancer is very important, because delay in diagnosis and treatment leads to thousands of deaths each year.

Your dentist and hygienist are trained to conduct oral cancer screenings during your routine dental cleanings and exams through painless visual and palpation techniques of the mouth, head and neck. The soft tissues are checked for irregularities in their appearance, and lymph nodes are palpated for abnormalities.

In addition to traditional screenings, some dentists are now implementing the use of advanced screening products that help to identify precancerous tissue. Typically the patient rinses with a mouth rinse and then is examined using a special light to detect which tissues appear abnormal.

Up to 75% of oral cancer cases are related to tobacco and alcohol use. The human papilloma virus is also associated with oral cancer in addition to others. In some cases, oral cancer develops in healthy individuals with absolutely no risk factors at all.

Warning signs for oral cancer include areas that are:

  • White, hard areas that do not wipe off
  • Red or raw
  • Irregular in appearance with no defined border
  • Sores that do not heal within 2 weeks

Typically the lesion will appear on only one side of the mouth and may be asymptomatic. If the lesion persists more than 2 weeks, it is important to have your dentist or medical doctor examine it.

If suspicious areas are found, they are monitored, biopsied, or referred to a specialist for diagnosis. Treatments for oral cancer include surgical removal, radiation and chemotherapy. Early intervention is important for successful oral cancer treatment.

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