One of the most important parts of your dental exam is oral cancer screening. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. The good news is that if oral cancer is diagnosed early, it can often be effectively treated.
Oral Cancer Exam
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Many oral cancers cause no obvious symptoms, which is why seeing your dentist regularly is so important. When you come in for your visit, we will check your lips, mouth, tongue, salivary glands, throat, and gums for any irregularities, such as:
- Red patches and sores on the floor of the mouth or on the tongue
- Leukoplakia, a hardened white or gray lesion that can appear anywhere in the mouth
- Lumps or thickened tissue anywhere in the mouth or throat
Oral cancer screenings are completely painless. First, we will feel your face, glands, and neck for bumps that seem abnormal. Then we will use a laser that emits a special light, allowing us to “see” what would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.
If your dentist detects any abnormalities, she or he may suggest a biopsy. Your biopsy will include a clinical evaluation to determine the stage and grade of the suspicious area.
During your semi-annual check-ups, your dentist and hygienist will thoroughly look for changes in your mouth. For additional assurance, a dedicated comprehensive oral cancer screening should be performed annually.