Are oral cancer screenings essential?

Did you know that at least three Australians are diagnosed with oral cancer every day?

The good news is that early detection means early treatment and a greater chance of success. At Beenleigh Marketplace Dental, oral cancer checks are performed regularly at each routine dental examination. Here’s what you should know about oral cancer, and what to expect at a screening…

What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer refers to cancer that develops in the tissues of the mouth and throat. In most cases, the disease begins in the cells of the mouth, as well as the tongue and lips. There are a number of types of oral cancers, including those that affect the lips, tongue, inner lining of the cheek, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palates, and the gums.

While diagnosis is readily possible, the disease is very often discovered quite late, when it has spread to the lymph nodes of the neck. Early detection is incredibly important, and for this reason, regular check-ups are essential.

What causes oral cancer?

There are a number of risk factors for the development of oral cancers, the biggest of which is smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Consuming considerable amounts of alcohol can also increase one’s chances of developing the disease, while some other risk factors include:

  • HPV infection
  • poor nutrition
  • a family history of the disease
  • prolonged sun exposure
  • a weak immune system
  • having previously been diagnosed with oral cancer.

Men are also more likely than women to develop the disease. While patients who are diagnosed with oral cancer usually have at least one of these risk factors, it is possible to develop the disease without having experienced any of these risk factors at all. As such, it is very important to maintain your oral health, and to come in for regular screenings.

What are the signs of oral cancer?

Some of the most common signs of oral cancer include having a mouth or lip sore that won’t heal, red or white patches inside the mouth, thickened areas on the inside of the cheek, as well as numbness in the tongue or mouth. Other potential symptoms include bleeding in the mouth, loss of teeth, pain when swallowing, chronic hoarseness, and swelling of the jaw.

What does an oral cancer screening involve?

At Beenleigh Marketplace Dental, we perform oral cancer checks as part of a routine dental examination. This helps to ensure more success in early detection and treatment. During the check, your dentist will perform a thorough visual examination, during which they will carefully examine your oral tissues by looking at your lips and the inside of your mouth. Your dentist will check your cheeks, as well as all areas of your tongue and the roof and floor of your mouth.

Once your dentist has completed the visual examination, they will do a physical examination in which they will touch your head and cheeks, the area around your jaw, under your chin, and inside the oral cavity. The purpose of this physical examination is to allow your dentist to feel for any unusual nodules and masses in these areas of your body.

The entire oral cancer check is generally very quick. In fact, it typically only takes around two minutes to complete. While oral cancer is not diagnosed at this stage, the examination is performed as a precautionary measure at your regular six-monthly dental check-up.

Is it time for your regular dental check-up? Get in touch with us to make an appointment. Your dentist will perform an oral cancer check as part of the routine examination.

For more about oral cancer and what a screening involves, have a look here.