Oral cancer screening is a practice that more and more dentists are performing routinely with their patients. The good news for patients is that oral cancer screening is quick and painless- and could possibly save your life.

Early symptoms of oral cancer are usually subtle and often go unnoticed by patients.  If caught early, oral cancer can be treated.  However, if left to later stages, oral cancer can be aggressive and each year takes a toll of approximately 8000 lives per year in North America.

Oral cancer symptoms can include:

  • Lump in the throat or neck
  • Lesion or sore that does not go away
  • Persistent hoarseness
  • Persistent earache- often in both ears
  • Numbness in or around the mouth
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing

Oral cancer screening process

During the oral cancer screening process, lymph nodes around the head and neck are palpated for abnormalities and the skin is also examined.

The most common locations for oral cancer inside the mouth include the surfaces of the tongue, the floor of the mouth and the tonsils.

The entire process takes as little as one to two minutes, and is so non-invasive that it can often be completed before the patient realizes it.

Who is at risk for oral cancer?

Patients at high risk for oral cancer include tobacco and alcohol users as well males and adults greater than 44 years in age.  Recently, research has also shown a correlation with patients with HPV infection.

Unfortunately, oral cancer is often diagnosed in the later stages and is difficult to treat and cure. Dentists who screen for oral cancer during routine visits, are attempting to reduce the number of patients who fall into this category.

Preventive dental care

Regular preventative dental care is even more important when patients consider that these visits offer the opportunity to diagnose developing health issues in their earliest stages, offering the best chance for successful treatment.  This includes catching dental issues, such as cavities or gum disease in their early stages, as well as oral cancer screening.

Since there is a known connection between a person’s oral health and physical health, preventive care not only helps to support good dental health, but is a part of maintaining overall well-being.

An end to avoiding the dentist

Avoiding the dentist can lead to a host of worsening dental problems and a higher risk of undiagnosed oral cancer.

The majority of oral cancer screenings come back negative, but the few cases that are positive make it worth checking every patient routinely. Early diagnosis is the goal, and the minute or two it takes to screen for oral cancer could be enough to save a life.

At Millennium Dental, our hygienists and dentists perform oral cancer screening as part of our commitment to ensuring our patients are maintaining the best oral health possible.