An estimated 51,540 people will be diagnosed with a form of oral cancer during 2018, including cancers of the tonsils, throat, and tongue.
While many people know that their Plano dentist checks for cavities and similar dental health issues, dentists also perform oral cancer screenings, ensuring that any problems are spotted quickly.
If you’re wondering what happens during an oral cancer screening with your Plano dentist, here’s what you need to know.
How Your Plano Dentist Performs an Oral Cancer Screening
During your routine exam, your Plano dentist will discuss your medical history and your overall health. This includes questions about any changes you may have noticed, including those affecting your mouth, tongue, and throat.
After collecting your history, your dentist will complete a thorough examination your mouth. They will examine your lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, roof, and floor, determining if any changes or areas of concern are present. Your dentist also looks at your tonsils and throat, and will perform a visual and physical examination along your neck and jaw to see if any abnormalities exist.
If your dentist spots something concerning, they may have you schedule a follow-up appointment to see if the issue heals on its own or might recommend that you complete further testing to determine the nature of the changes.
Are You at Risk for Oral Cancer?
Technically, every person is at risk of developing oral cancer, which is why coming in for regular dental exams is so important. However, certain people are at increased risk.
For example, tobacco users (including those who smoke, chew, or dip) have a significantly higher risk of developing various forms of oral cancer. Smokeless tobacco users may develop cancer of the lips, cheeks, or gums, while pipe smokers have the highest risk of lip cancer. Cigarette smokers and pipe smokers are not just at risk for oral cancer, but others as well, such as lung cancer.
Heavy drinkers, those infected with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), or those who spend a significant amount of time in the sun may have an increased risk of various oral cancers. Additionally, men tend to be more likely to be diagnosed than women, as well as individuals over the age of 55.
Oral Cancer Prevention
One of the best ways to lower your risk of developing oral cancer is to reduce your number of risk factors. This can include:
- quitting tobacco,
- avoiding excessive alcohol consumption,
- and protecting your lips with SPF when in the sun.
Additionally, you want to schedule regular dental appointments with your Plano dentist. That way, they can complete regular oral cancer screenings, increasing the odds that any issues will be identified early and ensuring you receive the proper treatment as quickly as possible.