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Oral Cancer Screening


Close up of dentist examining a patient's mouth with a dental mirrorOral cancer screening is a precautionary measure, carried out to prevent early-stage cancer from progressing. Our dentists at Thomas Family Dentistry carry out a visual and physical examination of your face, mouth, nose, and throat, reassuring you if there are no problems present - and able to refer you to an appropriate specialist for treatment if there are.

Screening tests people for the early stages of cancer before they have any symptoms. Thankfully, mouth and oropharyngeal cancer are relatively uncommon, although there is an increased risk in people who are heavy smokers and alcohol drinkers. Dentists carry out routine screening during examinations, which is why having regular check-ups - even if you think you have no dental or oral health problems - is a wise decision.

Where Does Oral Cancer Occur in the Mouth?


The disease develops when abnormal cells in the body divide uncontrollably, usually forming a tumor. This is referred to as malignant (cancerous) rather than benign (unharmful). Oral cancer occurs on the tongue and soft tissues of the mouth, the lips, tonsils, back of the throat, esophagus, tongue, and salivary glands.

What Does Oral What Does Oral Cancer Screening Entail?


Oral cancer screening is initially carried out with a visual examination. When you are comfortable in the dentist’s chair, the dentist takes a look at your face, neck, inside of your nose, lips, and mouth. If you have removable dental appliances, such as dentures, you will need to take these out so the dentist can see all the areas properly. The dentist is looking for any abnormalities, including discoloration, swellings, lumps, ulceration, and asymmetry.

A physical examination, where the dentist feels around the head, jaw, neck, and cheeks is carried out to see if there are any unusual lumps. The dentist may require that you sit upright, asking you to move your head from side to side, or up and down. This is to assess mobility as pain, discomfort or immobility could be signs of something that needs further investigation.

Are Tests Carried Out?


The dentist may use some specialized examining tools while they are examining your mouth to identify and inspect suspicious tissues more clearly. This includes a wireless device that uses visible blue light, a diagnostic device that releases a mouth rinse, and a brush that painlessly removes cells from the inside of the cheek to send for testing.

Other examining tools may include a fiber optic camera inserted through the nose and down the throat, or taking a small piece of tissue (biopsy) to send to a laboratory to test for cancerous cells. However, a biopsy is usually only taken once suspect tissues have been identified as malignant after the non-invasive brush biopsy.

Oral cancer screening gives you the opportunity to speak to your dentist about any concerns you may have. If you are anxious about the appointment, write a list of questions to take with you so the dentist can put your mind at rest.

Sometimes you may be referred for further tests, but this does not mean that you have cancer. Do bear in mind that cancer screening is designed to catch conditions early so that more treatment options are available to put you in remission.

For further information about oral cancer screening with Thomas Family Dentistry call us at 971-348-4244.
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