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Oral Cancer Screening

Dentists spot the signs of oral cancer more often than any other medical professional. This realization has led to oral cancer screenings being included in every dental checkup. Having a consistent relationship with our office allows us to see changes as they occur and even spot signs early in their development. Catching the symptoms oral cancer early can make a significant difference in the long-term prognosis.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is the development of cancerous tissue in the oral cavity; this can include the inside of the mouth, such as the hard and soft palate, the floor of the mouth, sinuses, and pharynx. It can also include the outside tissue, such as the lips, tongue, and cheek. As with any cancer, early detection is key in treating the issue while it is still relatively small. Often there are visible signs and symptoms that can be observed to indicate a possible problem, if we see these changes, we can help the patient seek treatment. The best way to spot these signs is by having a regular and consistent relationship with Dr. Tuckett, this is one of several valuable reasons to come for biannual dental checkups.

An oral cancer screening is a painless step that is done quickly through observation and often light touch using a probe. Done in just a couple of minutes, we are looking for anything out of the ordinary; this may include changes in tissue color, small bumps in a rash like spread, and large lumps or growths. Finding any of these indicators does not automatically signal cancer, but we may ask to perform a small biopsy or refer you for a second opinion. Dentists have been continuously found to be the first one to note signs of possible oral cancer.

Some of the other signs and symptoms we may inquire about includes:  

  • An open sore or wound that is not healing.
  • Patches or red or white tissue discoloration.
  • An area of pain or numbness that does not seem to heal.
  • An area of tissue that has thickened, or becomes rough, some may experience tissue erosion, or a crust develops.
  • Patients may find difficulty in swallowing or using their throat, or some may experience pain or discomfort in their throat.
  • Patients may find difficulty in chewing or moving their jaw. They may also note changes in their teeth and how they fit together when chewing.

Any unusual changes that do not seem to go away after a couple of weeks should be examined.

There are several outside factors that can increase your chances of developing oral cancer. Patients who smoke, chew tobacco, drink excessively or have HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, have an increased propensity to developing oral cancer. Additionally, there are genetic and environmental factors that can increase your odds. With so many factors, we screen all of our patients. Oral cancer is rare but can be very serious for those you suffer from it. Catching the symptoms of oral cancer early can make a significant difference in your long-term prognosis.