South Anchorage Dental Center

How a Dentist Checks for Signs of Oral Cancer

April 11, 2022
How a Dentist Checks for Signs of Oral Cancer

During your regular dental routine, your dentist will check for several things. They’ll make sure that your teeth don’t have cavities, your gums are healthy, and that there aren’t signs of other potential dental issues. 

One of the biggest things that your dentist will check for, that you may not know about, is the signs of oral cancer. During your routine dental checkups, the goal is to ensure that you can identify mouth cancer early when there is a greater chance for a cure. 

So, how does your dentist check for signs of oral cancer? Are there signs you could look out for in between your routine checkups? Here you can learn what an oral cancer screen looks like and possible signs of oral cancer. 

Are you in need of a dentist? Contact South Anchorage Dental Center today to schedule an appointment! 

What Is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that doesn’t go away. It can include cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat). 

When the cancer is caught early, it’s much easier for doctors to treat. Many people don’t get cancer diagnosed until their condition is too advanced to treat effectively. Regularly visiting your dentists and learning how to spot suspicious changes will heighten your chances of catching cancer early.

Signs of Oral Cancer infographic

What Are Signs of Oral Cancer?

There are several signs of symptoms that can indicate oral cancer, including: 

  • Swellings/ thickenings, lumps or bumps, rough spots/ crusts/ or eroded areas on lips, gums, cheeks, or other areas inside the mouth
  • Velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/ tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal within two weeks
  • Soreness or feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice
  • Ear pain
  • Swelling or pain in your jaw
  • A change in the way your teeth or dentures fit
  • Dramatic weight loss

If you’ve noticed any changes, contact your dentist or health care professional to get an oral cancer screen. 

What Does An Oral Cancer Screen Look Like?

During your routine checkup, your dentist will look for noticeable signs of oral cancer in various areas of your mouth. However, if something is concerning, they may recommend a detailed oral cancer screen to give a clearer picture of what’s going on. 

An oral cancer screening exam will include your dentist checking your mouth for red or white patches or mouth sores. Using gloved hands, they will also feel the tissues in your mouth to check for lumps or other abnormalities. They may also examine your throat or neck for lumps. 

Some dentists may use special tests and an oral exam to screen for cancer. These tests may include:

  • Oral cancer screening dye: Your dentist will rinse your mouth with a special blue dye before the exam. That will identify abnormal cells in your mouth as they take up the dye and appear blue.
  • Oral cancer screening light: A light will be shined in your mouth during the exam to make healthy tissue appear dark and abnormal tissue appear white. 

If your dentist discovers any signs of mouth cancer or precancerous lesions, they may recommend: 

  • A follow-up visit: Within the following weeks, you’ll have a follow-up visit that will allow your dentist to see if the abnormal area is present or note whether it has grown or changed over time.
  • A biopsy procedure: Your dentist may recommend removing a sample of cells for laboratory testing or referring you to a doctor specializing in oral cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Why Should You Choose South Anchorage Dental Center For Your Dentistry?

South Anchorage Dental Center is an excellent one-stop-shop for your whole family. Since we have family dentistry, you won’t need to go to several places for you or your kids. We also have many dental services available, including crowns, dental bonding, dentures, fillings, implants, Invisalign, and more. 

We offer emergency dental care, so if you spot possible signs of oral cancer, you can come in to be examined. SADC also offers a great Dental Savings Plan to help you save money on your routine checkups and other dental services. We’re one big family at SADC and want to ensure that your oral health stays in pristine condition. 

Are you seeing signs of possible oral cancer? Schedule an appointment with us today to get help. 

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