At your last dentist appointment, did you notice that your dentist asked you to stick your tongue out and move it side to side (perhaps with help from some gauze)? They may also have felt along your next and below your ears. When your dentist does this, they’re conducting an oral cancer screening. And if they’re doing this screening, that’s great news. It increases your chances of catching oral cancer early and increases your chances of a cure (if you have it).

The basics of oral cancer screenings.

Recently updated statistics from the American Cancer Society indicate that there are 58,450 new cases of oral or oropharyngeal cancer each year. And sadly, nearly 12,230 people lose their lives due to the disease. But the great news is that oral cancer screenings conducted in the dental office are the primary way the disease is detected, and often early enough to improve the results you can expect from treatment.

While an oral cancer screening doesn’t necessarily prevent death from oral cancer, it does increase your chances of effective treatment. Risk factors for oral cancer are habits and experiences that can increase the chance of getting this disease. Using any tobacco products, like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff, is a big risk. Tobacco is super harmful to your mouth, not to mention your lungs and esophagus.

Drinking a lot of alcohol also raises your risk. If you’ve had oral cancer before, you need to be extra careful because it can come back. And if you spend a lot of time in the sun without protecting your lips, you could be at risk for lip cancer.

This is why screenings at the dentist are so important. They help catch oral cancer early, especially if you have any risk factors. Early detection means treatment is more likely to work. So, even if these habits or your past puts you at higher risk, regular screenings give you a fighting chance. And all you need to do is attend your dental check-up every six months.

3 key things to know about oral cancer screenings.

When you hear the word screening, a lot of things probably come to mind. You might envision a big machine swirling around your head. Or maybe you worry that the screening will be invasive. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Routine cancer screenings are super simple, completely painless, totally comfortable, and take about one to two minutes.

Here are some things to help you learn more about cancer screenings.

  1. Recommended frequency: Screenings should be done at least every six months during your regular dental check-up. This helps in early detection.
  2. Non-invasive nature: Oral cancer screenings are completely non-invasive. Your dentist will look and feel around your mouth. No machines or uncomfortable procedures are involved.
  3. Importance for high-risk individuals: For those with risk factors like tobacco use or heavy alcohol consumption, screenings are crucial. They offer an essential opportunity to catch signs of oral cancer early, making treatment more likely to succeed.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Now that you understand the simplicity and significance of oral cancer screenings, you’re likely wondering about the signs and symptoms of the disease in the first place. And it is indeed possible that you might recognize some of the warning signs long before your next trip to the dentist.

Common oral cancer warning signs include:

  • Sores or ulcers that won’t heal: If you have a sore, ulcer, or white patch in your mouth that doesn’t heal within two weeks, it could be a sign of oral cancer.
  • Persistent pain: Any persistent pain in your mouth that doesn’t go away could be a warning sign.
  • Lumps or thick patches: Feeling a lump or noticing a thickened area in your mouth or throat can be a symptom.
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing: Experiencing trouble while chewing, swallowing, or moving your jaw or tongue is not normal.
  • Numbness: Any numbness in the mouth or lips could indicate something serious.
  • Voice changes: A change in your voice or a feeling that something is caught in your throat could be a symptom.

Allred Family Dentistry includes oral cancer screenings with every preventive dental visit.

When you visit our dentist’s office near Griffin, Georgia, for your professional dental cleaning every six months, rest assured that we’ll conduct a screening as part of that appointment. As experts in general dentistry, we understand the importance of prevention and want to do our best to help our patients stay happy and healthy in the long run.

Are you overdue for your next dental cleaning? Are you worried you might have one of the warning signs of oral cancer? Put your mind at rest and request an appointment with Allred Family Dentistry today.