Oral Cancer Screening
There is one step in your dental exam that is so very important. It can be a real lifesaver. Ths step is the oral cancer exam. Did you know that one American dies from oral cancer every hour? The truth is, everyone is at risk. In fact, twenty-five percent of cases of oral cancer occur in non-smokers who do not have any other known risk factors.
Oral Cancer has a very high cure rate if it can be caught early, before it has a chance to spread throughout the body. That’s why we perform an annual oral cancer exam in combination with your conventional dental exam. At Pure Dental Arts, we can help in identifying pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions within the mouth.
What are the risk factors for Oral Cancer?
Highest risk: Patients that are 40 and older with lifestyle risk factors such as alcohol consumption and/or tobacco use, as well as exposure to Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Medium risk: Patients 40 and older without the above-noted lifestyle risk factors.
Less risk: Patients aged 18-40 without the above-noted lifestyle risk factors.
How are Oral Cancer screens conducted?
- The face, lips, neck, and inside of the nose and oral cavity are all areas we examine during an oral cancer screeming. Before the screening, patients are instructed to remove all dental appliances like retainers, dentures, or partial dentures.
- The dentist scans for asymmetries, bumps, lumps, swellings, red/white lesions, ulcerations, or anything that looks abnormal.
- A tongue depressor is used to check the back of the throat.
- Dental tools may be needed to evaluate the gums, inner cheeks, roof of the mouth, tonsils, and areas udner the tongue.
During the visual exam, the dentist will also palpate or touch the head and cheeks, around the jaw and in the mouth itself to feel for any nodules or unusual masses. One red flag is if normaly mobile tissue, is hard and immobile. Also, oral cancer symptoms can be painful, but not always. A painless swelling can still be a sign of Oral Cancer.
Oral Cancer Screening Devices
In addition to standard dental equipment, a dentist may also use specialized tools to during the Oral Cancer Screening. There are tools for doing a “brush biopsy” where cells are painlessly removed in order to be sent for testing; there’s also something called a VELscope, which uses a special visible blue light to identify aberrant tissue changes; there are even special mouth rinses that can stain the abnormal regions of the mouth.
After the Oral Cancer Screening:
- An Oral Cancer screening is not definitely diagnostic. If the dentist finds nothing abnormal, the patient may be instructed to return at set intervals for further screening, especially if she has the lifestyle risk factors listed above (smoking, alcohol consumption. HPV exposure).
- Abnormal tissues have to be biopsied, either by the dentist, or by a specialist, in order to get a definitive confirmation of Ora Cancer.
Compassionate Care and Support
At Pure Dental Arts, annual oral cancer exams are quick and painless. A few minutes once a year can really go long way towards preventing a potentially life threatening illness. If you feel you need an oral cancer screening, Contact Pure Dental Arts today for a consultation with one of our Greater Queene Anne, Seattle dentists!