How and Why to Test for Oral Cancer

How and Why to Test for Oral Cancer

You’ve heard it before, probably your whole life: Going to the dentist twice a year for regular checkups is highly recommended. But it could also be life-saving. How? In addition to checking for cavities your dentist can also test for oral cancer.

What is oral cancer screening?

Oral cancer screening is basically an exam that your dentist may perform to check in your mouth for any signs of cancer or precancerous conditions. The goal is to identify mouth cancer or any precancerous lesions that could eventually lead to cancer as early as possible. The earlier the detection, the greater the chance of removing and curing it.

What the exam entails

So, what can you expect during an oral cancer screening exam? Your dentist will simply look inside your mouth and check for white or red patches or any mouth sores. He or she will also use gloved hands to feel the tissues inside your mouth, checking for any abnormalities or lumps. If you wear dentures, your dentist will ask you to remove them to be able to examine the mouth tissue underneath.

Additional tests

Some dentists may use additional tests after performing the oral cancer screening. These could involve the following aspects:

  • Before the exam, you may be asked to rinse your mouth with a blue dye. Any abnormal cells in your mouth would soak up the dye and therefore appear blue.
  • During the exam, your dentist could shine a light in your mouth, which would make the healthy tissue look dark and any abnormal tissue look white.

Preventative care

The next time you visit your dentist, ask how you can be tested for oral cancer and whether such a screening is right for you. Also be sure to seek guidance about how to reduce your risk of oral cancer.