Posted on: 24 January 2018
When you think of a dental cleaning, you may think of tooth polishing, x-rays, gum pocket measuring, and fluoride treatments. However, many people don't realize that oral cancer screenings can be done at dental cleanings. Take a look at who needs an oral cancer screening, what it entails, and what to do, if you need treatment.
Who Needs an Oral Cancer Screening?
Anyone can have an oral cancer screening done by their dentist; however, certain people are more at risk and are more likely to need a screening. People at a higher risk for cancer include:
Those who are sexually active and believe they've been exposed to the human pipillomavirus (HPV)
Those who drink alcohol excessively or use tobacco products frequently
Those who tan frequently or those who stay out in the sun without sunscreen
Those who wear dentures, since ill-fitting appliances can trap bacteria
What Does a Cancer Screening Entail?
Cancer screenings are completely painless and only take about five minutes to complete. Your dentist or hygienist will use gloved hands to palpate your neck and face, checking your thyroid, lymph nodes, and glands for any bumps or abnormalities. Your dentist may use a dental mirror and a tongue depressor to take a look at your gums, tonsils, tongue, and the roof of your mouth.
Besides looking for lumps and bumps, your dentist will keep an eye out for cuts, sores, and discolorations. He or she may also ask you if you get sick easily or if you have chronic coughing, difficulty swallowing, or chronic hoarsenes.
Keep in mind that this examination and these types of questions are only to help with the discovery of cancer. These types of screenings aren't meant to be a diagnosis. These signs and symptoms could very well indicate a different problem. If your dentist is worried that you have cancer, he or she will order additional tests to look for abnormal cells in the oral cavity.
What If It is Oral Cancer?
Like any other cancer, the sooner the discovery of oral cancer, the better chances of recovery. Depending on the severity of the cancer, you may need to treat it with chemo and radiation. Some people may need to have portions of their lymph nodes, vocal cords, or tongue excised to treat the cancer. You and your dentist can talk about your next steps together. For instance, if you drink a lot of alcohol, you and your dentist can strategize on how to reduce your intake. Even a small change could improve your chances of recovery.
Since people only have dental cleanings once or twice a year, don't wait until that time, if you have signs and symptoms of cancer. Call your dentist in town ASAP and have an oral screening and/or additional tests done.Share