During your dental appointment, you might receive a screening for oral cancer. While this might just seem like another step in your cleaning or filling, oral cancer screenings play a critical role in improving diagnosis and treatment for this disease.
The Severity of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer has one of the highest death rates not because of the difficulty of detection, but because the cancer is often not detected until it has advanced to a later stage. While many dentists screen for oral cancer, there is no formal program that requires them to do so. In most cases, oral cancer is finally discovered when the cancer has traveled to another location, like the lymph nodes located on the neck. The good news is that screening for oral cancer is incredibly effective. Almost 85% of oral cancer cases can be detected in the early stages by a trained dental professional.
Who Is At Risk?
While oral cancer can occur in any population, some of the most notable risk factors include:
- Being over the age of 40
- Smoking or using tobacco in another form
- Drinking alcohol heavily or regularly
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Eating an unbalanced or unhealthy diet
Over time, age has become less of an indicator due to the use of tobacco in younger people, so if you are under the age of 40, it does not mean that you are not at risk for oral cancer.
What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
When your dentist performs a screening for oral cancer, they will look in your mouth for the following:
- White or red patches
- Hard spots or lumps in your mouth or on your gums
- Pain or a numb feeling when you bite
- Spots or sores that are not healing
If your dentist asks you any questions during the screening, always answer as honestly as you can. If a suspicious spot is found in your mouth, a tissue sample will be sent to another lab to test for the presence of cancerous cells.
OneSource Dental Offers Screening for Oral Cancer
OneSource Dental of South Tampa offers screening for oral cancer to all of our patients to detect any abnormalities or issues before they have a chance to progress. We care about helping you reach optimal oral health. To schedule your exam or learn more about ways to care for your gums, give us a call today at (813) 879-9299. We look forward to keeping your smile bright and healthy!