Oral cancer screenings are done during a routine dental check-up.
Oral health diseases not only affect the teeth and gums but can also affect the rest of the soft tissues in the mouth.
One of the most severe and dangerous diseases is oral cancer. This disease can cause sores, cysts, or tumors in any of the tissues that make up the mouth (lips, tongue, palate, gums, and the inside of the cheeks). Oral cancer can even affect the inside of the throat.
Detecting oral cancer at an early stage is essential to developing an effective treatment. The dentist can perform studies and use advanced tools to determine if the patient shows signs of oral cancer, thus making an accurate diagnosis.
What are the symptoms of oral cancer?
It is advisable to pay attention to possible symptoms that could indicate the presence of oral cancer. Patients should go to the dentist as soon as possible if they suffer from any of the following symptoms:
- Sores on the lips or inside of the mouth that do not heal.
- Difficulty speaking, chewing, swallowing, or pain when moving the tongue.
- White or red spots on the tissues of the mouth.
- Inflammation, cysts, tumors, or lumps inside the mouth.
- Loose teeth.
What kinds of tests can the dentist perform to detect oral cancer?
During a routine oral examination, the dentist can perform different tests to detect if some symptoms or factors indicate that the patient has oral cancer. These tests’ goal is to detect oral cancer early, thus increasing the chances of a possible cure.
These exams can include a complete review using different tools and even lab tests.
The dentist will first look closely into the oral cavity to look for possible visible symptoms, such as lesions, sores, cysts, or tumors. The dentist may also feel the inside of the mouth to look for soft tissue abnormalities or irregularities. The throat and neck may also need to be examined. If the dentist sees possible signs of oral cancer, additional tests should be done.
Digital x-rays: performing digital radiography would help the dentist to determine if there are abnormalities in areas of the mouth that could not be reviewed or observed. Also, the structure of the bones and teeth could be monitored to see if they are healthy.
Cancer screening test with dye: The patient will need to rinse their mouth with a dye. This will cause the abnormal cells to absorb the dye and turn a blue color, making it easier for them to be detected.
Cancer screening with light: for this test, the inside of the mouth is illuminated with a special lamp; this light makes healthy tissue appear dark, while affected tissue appears white.
If further tests are needed, the dentist may recommend follow-up visits to see if the lesions remain or disappear. A biopsy may also be necessary to complement the diagnosis. A biopsy is done by extracting a sample of the affected tissue that is then sent to the laboratory, where it is checked for the presence of cancer cells.
Although the tests would detect oral cancer at an early stage, there are no studies that indicate that this saves lives. However, detecting oral cancer early would allow planning more effective treatments and increase the chances of a cure.
Also, oral exams are not able to detect all types of oral cancer. It may be possible that small lesions or tumors located in hidden areas of the oral cavity cannot be detected. For this reason, in many cases, it may be necessary to carry out other more comprehensive examinations.
Oral cancer screenings are an essential part of routine dental check-ups, as they would allow for early detection of this terrible disease and thus be able to offer patients effective treatment.
At Aberdeen Dentistry, we offer comprehensive dental check-ups and the best tools for oral cancer detection. If you suffer from any symptoms that cause you concern, visit our dental practice in Boynton Beach, FL as soon as possible! Our highly trained dentists will give you the care and help you need.