Oral cancer screening is a procedure that is performed during your routine dental checkup. During this procedure, at Dieterlen Dental, our dentist will examine you for signs of oral cancer, such as red or white lesions, ulcers, white or red patches, lumps or bumps, or changes in your oral tissues.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer refers to cancer that affects the mouth or throat. While oral cancer does share many similarities to other forms of cancer, it is important to note that not all cancer symptoms in the mouth are cancerous. For example, some precancerous lesions may be benign, and while benign, can be annoying or uncomfortable to deal with.
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer
An oral cancer screening is designed to determine if any abnormal or precancerous cells are present. During a screening, the dentist will examine the oral tissue for signs of oral cancer. This screening is especially important for those that smoke or consume a lot of alcohol. The signs and symptoms of oral cancer vary, but some signs tend to occur more commonly than others. Oral cancer signs and symptoms include:
- A sore or lesion that did not heal within three weeks
- A sore or lesion that bleeds easily
- Difficulty chewing
- Difficulty moving the mouth or tongue
- Difficulty swallowing
- An unexplained growth in the mouth
- A lump in the mouth
- Numbness or discomfort on the lips or in the mouth
What Causes Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is caused by the HPV virus. The virus is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. HPV is often found in the skin of the genitals, but it’s sometimes found in the mouth. Smoking and chewing tobacco greatly increase the risk of developing oral cancer. If you’re a heavy drinker or use other tobacco products, you may be at higher risk.
How Is Oral Cancer Diagnosed?
There are several different ways that your dentist can detect oral cancer. First, a thorough oral examination will be performed. If your dentist suspects that there is an abnormality, a biopsy will be performed. During the biopsy, a small piece of suspicious tissue will be removed and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
The Benefits of Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer is a serious condition. If left untreated, it can spread to the neck and the head. It can cause facial disfigurement and interfere with your ability to eat, drink, and speak. Fortunately, regular oral cancer screenings let you get the treatment you need before it’s too late.
During oral cancer screenings, your general dentist will examine your entire mouth. They will especially focus on the sides and inside of your mouth, where oral cancer most often originates. They may also use a special light, called a VELscope, to help spot possible signs of oral cancer.
To discover more about the importance of oral cancer screening, get in touch with Dieterlen Dental at 3015 E. 91st Street, Tulsa, OK 74137, or call (918) 299-2400.