Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer is an aggressive form of cancer and associated with high mortality rates. Early diagnosis of this disease gives sufferers the greatest chance for recovery. This important screening makes keeping your biannual dental appointments even more essential as every dental exam at Dentistry for Life in Center City includes an oral cancer screening.
What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening
Your dental cleanings and checkups include far more than just plaque and tartar removal, brushing, flossing, and taking x-rays. Oral cancer screenings happen in those several minutes we spend examining your mouth after your cleaning is complete. You may not even realize we’re looking for signs of mouth cancer because the exam is painless and brief.
Oral cancer screenings include the following:
- Tongue exam: Using a piece of gauze, we hold your tongue and extend it as far as it can go to examine the sides of your tongue and underneath, keeping an eye out for concerning red and white patches and lumps. The tongue and surrounding soft tissues are where oral cancer is most likely to present in non-smokers.
- Palate exam: We will check the roof of your mouth for red or white patches, lumps, or soft areas that should not be present on the hard palate.
- Lip and cheek exam: We will roll our fingers over your cheeks and lips, again seeking bumps or unusual patches that could indicate cancer.
- Neck exam: We feel your neck to check for enlarged lymph nodes, which could indicate oral cancer.
- Tonsil exam: We depress your tongue to examine your tonsils for bumps, redness, asymmetry, or other abnormalities.
- Floor exam: Also known as a simultaneous probe, we press on the floor of your mouth and under your mouth at the same time, feeling for bumps.
Reading this list, you may think you can check your own mouth regularly for oral cancer. You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out if something is wrong with your mouth or neck. Swollen glands, for example, can be a sign of a sore throat or other upper respiratory infection – this condition doesn’t always indicate cancer. Your dentist knows the difference.
While you can certainly look at your mouth to see if something isn’t right, your dentist is trained to recognize even the faintest signs of oral cancer. You won’t be able to recognize what a professional can see. Take advantage of these few minutes of expertise by committing to see your Philadelphia dentist every six months. A trip to the dentist can save your life.
Symptoms of Oral Cancer
The early stages of oral cancer are typically asymptomatic. You may not notice that anything is wrong with your mouth or see any obvious signs of cancer, but that doesn’t mean all is well. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should see your Philadelphia dentist as soon as possible to have your mouth checked out:
- A persistent sore in the mouth.
- Red or white patches in the mouth.
- Tenderness or numbness in the mouth or lips.
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing.
- Mouth or lip pain.
- Difficulty moving your tongue.
- Speaking problems.
- A crusted rough spot in the mouth.
- A neck lump that is not tender.
- Chronic sore throat.
- Chronic hoarseness.
- The feel of something caught in your throat.
Lower Your Risk of Developing Oral Cancer
Seeing your Center City dentist every six months takes on new meaning when you understand that the visit includes an essential oral cancer screening. We keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, but we also make sure there aren’t any dangers lurking in your mouth that are threatening your overall well-being.
Everyone is at risk of developing oral cancer, though smokers and tobacco users do have an elevated risk. Non-smokers can develop cancer associated with the human papilloma virus (HPV) in the back of their mouth, the tonsils, or base of the tongue.
Remember, not every symptom or abnormality is cause for alarm. Some worrisome oral health problems can indicate other problems like gum disease. Our dentists are highly trained to recognize the difference. Contact us at Dentistry for Life in Center City to schedule your appointment for a teeth cleaning and exam.