Dentists have the knowledge and tools to detect early signs of oral cancer and can help discuss next steps.
What Is an Oral Cancer Screening?
An oral cancer screening is a crucial component of a routine dental exam allowing dentists to identify abnormal cells or changes in your mouth, helping to detect irregularities that may be precursors to oral cancer. Detecting cancer at its earliest stages helps dramatically improve the chances of successful treatment and recovery.
What a Dentist Looks for During an Oral Cancer Screening
During an oral cancer screening, your dentist will visually examine your oral cavity, including your tongue, cheeks, the roof of your mouth, and the back of your throat. They will also feel your neck and jaw for unusual lumps or swelling.
The dentist may use additional tests or advanced tools like VELscope® technology to aid in identifying areas of abnormal cells.
Tests for Oral Cancer
If your dentist discovers any suspicious areas during the screening, they may recommend further tests to explore an oral cancer diagnosis.
Barium Swallow: A barium swallow test can reveal irregularities in the larynx, pharynx, mouth, and surrounding areas.
Endoscopy: Although most areas of the nose and mouth can be examined without an instrument, doctors may perform an endoscopy to view hard-to-see areas, such as the larynx and behind the nose.
Imaging Tests: Imaging tests, including CT scans, MRI scans, and PET/CT scans, play a crucial role in assisting with diagnosing oral cancer, assessing its spread, and developing effective treatment plans.
Biopsy: A sample of tissues or cells is taken for a biopsy before treatment begins. A biopsy is the only way to confirm an oral cancer diagnosis.
Signs & Symptoms of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer can present itself in various ways. Early diagnosis is crucial, as it allows for more treatment options and a better chance of successful recovery.
Adults over 20 should undergo a screening every 3 years, while those over 40 should have annual screenings. Individuals with risk factors, such as tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, or a family history of cancer, should also request an annual oral cancer screening.
Factors Increasing the Risk of Oral Cancer
Several factors can increase the risk of developing oral cancer, including:
Tobacco use: All forms of tobacco, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, bidis, and smokeless tobacco, are linked to oral cancer. The risk increases with the duration and amount of tobacco use, especially when combined with alcohol consumption.
Human papillomavirus (HPV): Some types of HPV, spread through sexual contact, can infect the mouth and throat, increasing the risk of oral cancer.
Previous cancer: Individuals who have had oral cancer, or other types, are at a higher risk of relapse or developing other incidents of cancerous concern.
Sun exposure: Prolonged sun exposure, especially for fair-skinned individuals and those working outdoors, increases the risk of lip cancer.
Weakened immune system: A compromised immune system can increase the risk of oral cancer, particularly lip cancer.
Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD): Individuals who have undergone stem cell transplants and developed GVHD are more prone to oral cancer.
Lichen planus: This chronic condition, which causes rashes or sores on the skin and inside the mouth, can increase the risk of oral cancer when mouth ulcers are present for a long time.
Poor oral health: Poor oral hygiene and infrequent dental visits have been associated with a higher risk of oral cancer.
Inherited conditions: Genetic conditions like Fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita can increase the risk of developing precancerous changes in the mouth and oral cancer at an earlier age.
The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings & Prevention
Oral cancer screenings, as with any other forms of cancer screenings, play a crucial role in early detection of severe illness and dramatically increase the odds of receiving successful treatment. Although screenings can be extremely helpful, it is always a better choice to pay close attention to adopting preventative habits in your daily routine to minimize the risk of cancer development. Unprotected intimate encounters, excessive exposure to the sun or use of harmful substances such as drugs and alcohol increase our chances of developing oral cancer.
At Living Wellness Dental Dorchester, we’re committed to providing comprehensive dental care, including oral cancer screenings, for our clients in the Calgary area.
Our dentists use advanced tools and screening devices like VELscope® technology to monitor the health of your smile and help with the early detection of oral cancer. Awareness of your physical health is a much better way to experience elevated wellness.
We are immensely proud of our Living Wellness Dental Dorchester staff. We're all here to provide great dentistry with an emphasis on total health, as opposed to the typical disease-oriented, reactionary philosophy.
This proactive paradigm is based on the notion that there is a significant link between oral health and overall health, which has led our practice into the area of holistic care and a "biologic" perspective to dentistry.
Our first objective is to guarantee that you are at ease and confident in our knowledge and expertise. Our committed, courteous, and experienced team of physicians, which includes Drs. Kindal Robertson, D.D.S., and Dr. Keely Bullen D.M.D., is happy to help you with all of your oral health needs.