Dental cleanings and examinations will help keep teeth clean and eliminate the chance of infection later on.Brushing and flossing your teeth is not the only way to help keep your teeth healthy. No matter how much people brush and floss, there are areas of the mouth that only a professional dentist can reach. This is…
Oral Cancer Screening During Your Dental Exam
Dentists recommend a dental exam once every six months. They may increase the frequency of routine dental checks for patients with ongoing oral health issues. The purpose of a dental exam is to monitor the health of the entire oral cavity. This includes the teeth, gums, and soft tissues of the mouth. Dentists use these routine checks to screen for oral cancer and other abnormalities in the face, throat, and oral cavity.
The dental exam: a brief explainer
There are two parts to a routine dental check: the dental exam and the prophylaxis (cleaning). This article focuses on the exam part of the routine checkup. Here is what happens during a routine dental check:
- First, the dentist will do a visual exam to check the teeth for decay, cavities, plaque, and tartar. They may use x-ray imaging to check for cavities and decay in spots that the eye cannot see
- The dentist will proceed to check the gums for swelling, tenderness, recession, or deep pockets. These are indicators of gum disease
- Next, the dentist will check the soft tissues in and around the oral cavity. They will check the tongue, cheeks, palate, throat, face, and neck
- Lastly, the dentist will perform an oral cancer screening
Oral cancer screening can be as straightforward as passing a specialized light over the oral cavity. The screening can also go a step further based on what the dentist finds on the first pass. Screening for oral cancer is an aspect of dental health that needs to be done regularly.
What to expect from oral cancer screening
Most dentists include oral cancer screening in routine dental checks. The process does not significantly add to the time and effort it takes to perform the overall exam. Once the dentist checks the first few boxes in the checklist that guides their dental exam, they will:
1. Check for abnormalities of the face, mouth, and neck
In the previous section, oral cancer screening follows an exam of the face, neck, throat, and oral cavity. They check the entirety of the oral cavity, including the tongue, cheeks, inner lips as well as the roof and floor of the mouth.
The dentist uses sight and touch to detect swelling, lumps, sores, pain, and rough patches. This exam allows the dentist to identify suspicious changes in the mouth. The dentist may use their findings to take further steps.
2. Use specialized tools for a closer look
Specialized tools can pick up on warning signs that the naked eye may miss. For this reason, many dentists will proceed to use the following to check for abnormalities in the oral cavity:
- A screening light, usually fluorescent, that improves visibility of roughness, raised patches, redness, sores, or lesions
- Dye that enhances the visibility of the abnormalities listed in the previous bullet point
- Brush biopsy to extract cells for testing. It is worth noting that the dentist may obtain a biopsy sample through a different procedure
3. Further testing and a follow-up visit
If the dentist deems it necessary to perform the biopsy, they will send a sample for testing. This would require the patient to schedule a second visit for their results and monitor the potential problem area.
Oral cancer: risk factors and prevention
Most of the risk factors of oral cancer arise from lifestyle choices. Heavy smokers and heavy drinkers are at a higher risk of developing this kind of cancer. A person who has a personal or family history of oral cancer is also more likely to develop this type of cancer. Exposure to viruses like HPV can also cause cancer of the mouth or throat.
Prevention can be as simple as doing away with smoking and excessive drinking. Avoiding too much sun also helps; as does a vitamin-rich diet. Most importantly, an individual should get periodic checks, whether or not they have a history of oral cancer.
Make regular dental checks a part of your annual routine
A simple dental exam can save you from a life filled with invasive dental procedures. Routine checkups also serve as early warning systems for both dental and systemic health issues. These are reasons enough to get in touch and make an appointment with our dentist.
Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: Dental Cleaning and Examinations in Phoenix, AZ.
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