What Is an Oral Cancer Screening?

oral cancer dentist grand rapids mi

An oral cancer screening is a part of your dental examination in which your dentist will check your mouth for signs of oral cancer. 

This is important because the American Cancer Society estimates that over 50,000 Americans will get oral or throat cancer this year. While more than 10,000 Americans are expected to die from throat and oral cancers, this outcome can be prevented by early detection. 

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is so dangerous because patients often don’t exhibit symptoms until it’s too late. If you recognize any of the early signs of mouth cancer below, schedule an appointment with your emergency dentist as soon as possible.

Mouth cancer symptoms include:

  • White or red patches in the mouth
  • Numbness or pain when biting down
  • Bleeding in mouth
  • Lump in throat or mouth
  • Lump on lips
  • Hoarse voice

Why Do Oral Cancer Screenings Matter?

Oral cancer screenings save lives by detecting mouth cancer in its early stages. The earlier your dentist is able to detect oral cancer symptoms, the better chance you’ll have of survival. There are two main types of screenings, which are clinical examination and oral examination. The type of screening done will depend on your dentist and your medical history.

During a clinical examination, your dentist examines the inside of your mouth for patches and sores that don’t belong. They will also feel along the inside of your cheek and other parts of your mouth for bumps. A clinical exam is simple enough to be done during your regular teeth cleaning appointment. 

An oral exam, on the other hand, is more thorough because your dentist uses a special screening device to detect cancer or premalignant lesions. If cancer is detected, you’ll be able to start mouth cancer treatment as soon as possible. 

What Happens During an Oral Cancer Screening? 

During an oral cancer screening, our dentist will thoroughly check your mouth for signs of oral cancer. He will feel for any lumps or other abnormalities and examine the surface of your skin. If he notices any patches, sores, swelling, or other potential signs of oral cancer, he will perform a more thorough check to make sure there’s nothing serious going wrong. 

Oral cancer screenings are quick, pain-free, and can be completed as part of your regular dental checkup. Visiting our oral cancer screening dentist on a regular basis is the best way to make sure you stay cancer-free. 

How to Reduce Your Risk of Oral Cancer

While there’s no way to guarantee you won’t get oral cancer, there are things you can do to lower your risk. By doing the following, you’ll be able to reduce the likelihood of getting oral cancer.

  • Stop using tobacco products.
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption.
  • Wear sun protection on your lips.
  • Eat a nutritious diet.

If you have a history of using tobacco products or abusing alcohol, you are at higher risk for oral cancer. You are also at a higher risk for lip cancer if you didn’t use sun protection on your lips while spending long periods of time outside.

Consider Getting the HPV Vaccine

HPV stands for the human papillomavirus which can infect multiple parts of the body including the mouth and throat. There’s a lot of different kinds of HPV but certain types, by infecting your mouth and throat, can lead to cancer.

If you haven’t already and you’re able to, consider getting the HPV vaccine. No vaccine is 100% guaranteed to protect you from the virus/disease forever; however, your chances of contracting it drastically drop when you get the vaccine.

If you recognize any of the signs of oral cancer, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible for an oral cancer screening. That small step may end up saving your life.

Ready to Make an Appointment?

Our family dentists in Grand Rapids, MI are accepting new patients! To request an appointment and get your oral cancer screening, call the Bander Dental Group at (616) 949-5980.

This blog post has been updated.