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Oral Cancer Screening Procedure: What to Expect

Taking care of teeth is a key responsibility for dentists, but it’s only part of their duties. Dentists also help ensure your overall oral health is in good standing.

Oral cancer screenings are one example of how dentists take comprehensive oral health into account. 

A screening completed by a skilled professional can be included as part of your regular cleaning schedule. At Dentologie, we include it free of charge with every visit. Why? Because oral cancer screenings are crucial for early detection and prevention, helping you stay healthier.

Wondering what to expect during an oral cancer screening procedure? Let’s take a closer look.


 Why is Oral Cancer Screening Important?

The importance of oral cancer screenings


Oral cancer screenings are of utmost importance because they can detect the early signs of oral cancer, a potentially life-threatening disease. Early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment and survival. Oral cancer can manifest in the mouth, lips, tongue, throat, or other oral tissues, and it is essential to identify any suspicious lesions or abnormalities as soon as possible.

When is an oral cancer screening recommended?

An oral cancer screening is recommended for individuals of all ages, particularly those who have specific risk factors. These risk factors include tobacco and alcohol use, a history of oral cancer or other head and neck cancers, prolonged sun exposure (which can lead to lip cancer), human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, and a weakened immune system. Regular screenings are especially crucial for individuals over the age of 40, as the risk of oral cancer increases with age.


How can my dentist help detect oral cancer early?

Dentists play a vital role in detecting oral cancer early through regular screenings during routine dental check-ups. They are trained to identify suspicious signs, such as red or white patches, sores that do not heal, lumps, or changes in the texture of oral tissues. Dentists may also conduct a thorough examination of the head, neck, and lymph nodes to check for any abnormalities. If any concerning symptoms or lesions are discovered, the dentist can initiate further diagnostic procedures or refer the patient to a specialist for further evaluation.

What is Oral Cancer? What are some of the risk factors?

Oral cancer refers to cancer that develops in the oral cavity or oropharynx, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, floor or roof of the mouth, and the back of the throat. The Mayo Clinic lists a number of common risk factors including tobacco and alcohol use, as they are significant contributors to its development.

In recent years, the prevalence of oral cancer associated with HPV infection has also increased. Other risk factors include excessive sun exposure, poor oral hygiene, a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables, a family history of cancer, and a weakened immune system. It is crucial to be aware of these risk factors and to seek regular screenings and professional dental care to detect and address oral cancer in its early stages.

What to Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening

Do I need to do anything to prepare for an oral cancer screening?


To prepare for an oral cancer screening, there are generally no specific requirements or restrictions. However, it's a good idea to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing before the appointment. It is also helpful to inform your dentist about any symptoms or concerns you may have regarding your oral health.

How long does an oral cancer screening procedure take?

The duration of an oral cancer screening procedure can vary, but it typically takes just a few minutes to complete. The screening is often incorporated into a routine dental check-up, making it a quick and convenient process.

What happens during oral cancer screening?

During an oral cancer screening, the dentist will perform a visual and physical examination of your oral cavity. They will inspect your lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, throat, and other oral tissues for any abnormalities such as red or white patches, sores, or lumps. The dentist may also gently palpate your lymph nodes in the neck to check for any swelling or tenderness.

When can I expect oral cancer screening results?

The timing of receiving oral cancer screening results depends on various factors, including the specific screening method used and the dental practice's procedures. In some cases, the dentist may be able to provide immediate results or observations. However, if further analysis or testing is required, the results may take longer. The dentist will inform you about the expected timeline for receiving the results.

What happens if my oral cancer screening provides an abnormal result?

If an oral cancer screening provides an abnormal result, further evaluation and testing will be recommended to assess the presence of abnormal cells, precancerous lesions, or abnormal tissue. This may involve additional diagnostic procedures like biopsies to determine the nature and severity of the abnormality.

For additional data on risk factors, visit the Oral Cancer Foundation website. 



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