Why Should I Go to My Dentist for Oral Cancer Screening?

Does your dentist ask you to hold your tongue out for him or her to feel around the base of your mouth? Do you wonder what he or she is doing? You have all the right in the world to enquire what your dentist is testing for. In most cases, your dentist is performing an oral cancer screening.


People should undergo oral cancer screenings before symptoms begin to appear. This is a precautionary examination that should happen at every dentist’s appointment. A comprehensive screening does not involve much. It takes less than five minutes. It can take longer to brush your teeth. 


What Is Oral Cancer?


This is any cancer in the oral cavity or throat. This type of cancer belongs to a larger category of cancers called neck or head cancers. Most oral cancers develop in the squamous cells in your lips, mouth, and tongue. 


Each year in the United States, more than 49,000 patients receive an oral cancer diagnosis. This is according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Often, these cases occur in people over the age of 40 years. 


Unfortunately, most people discover their condition after it spreads to the lymph nodes of the neck. This is why early detection is critical to surviving oral cancer. A good oral hygienist or dentist will inspect different areas of your mouth.


Types of Oral Cancers


Oral cancer can affect any of the following areas of your mouth:


  • Soft and hard palate


  • Lips


  • The floor of the mouth


  • Tongue


  • Gums


  • The inner lining of the cheek


Your dentist or oral hygienist is often the first healthcare professional to notice signs and symptoms of oral cancer. Going for your biannual or annual dental checkups will help your dentist stay up to date on your mouth’s health. 


Regular Checkups Can Catch the Problem Early


Your dentist probably asks you to visit their office for a checkup every six months. This will allow them to routinely check for gum problems and cavities. That said, you need to understand that your dentist is your first line of defense against serious oral conditions such as oral cancer. 


This is why good dentists use routine dental examinations to check for oral cancer, which often appears as a sore or growth that does not go away. If you do not catch the condition early, it can be life-threatening. Cancer screening, therefore, is one of the most important parts of dental checkups. 


Signs and Symptoms to Watch Out for


  • Changes in your bite


  • Bumps or lumps in your gums, lips, and other areas in your oral cavity, as well as eroded areas or rough spots on your lips


  • Dramatic weight loss


  • Chronic sore throat, voice changes, or hoarseness


  • Unexplained bleeding in your mouth


  • Difficulty chewing, speaking, swallowing, or moving your tongue or jaw


  • Velvety red or white patches in your mouth


  • Often feeling sore in the back of your throat


  • Persistent sores in your mouth, neck, or face that bleed easily and take too long to heal


A good rule of thumb is to consult your dentist about any lesions in your mouth that do not heal within two weeks. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, your dentist can help you determine the cause of the problem.


To learn more about why you need to visit a dentist’s office for oral cancer screening, visit Above and Beyond Dental at our office in Bedford, Texas. You can also call (817) 571-1667 today to schedule an appointment.