In addition to examining your teeth for cavities, your dentist can perform an examination for signs of cancer or precancerous legions in your mouth.
Most dentists examine your mouth during a routine dental visit. The earlier a cancer is detected, the greater the chance for a cure. Some dentists may use additional tests to help them identify areas of abnormal cells in your mouth.
The goal of oral cancer screening is to detect precancerous lesions that may lead to mouth cancer at an early stage when cancer or lesions are easiest to remove and most likely to be cured.
Medical organizations disagree about the benefits of oral cancer screening and on whether healthy people without risk factors for mouth cancer need oral cancer screening. There is no single oral exam or oral cancer screening test has proven to reduce the risk of dying of oral cancer. You and your dentist may decide that an oral exam or a special test is right for you based on your risk factor. People with a higher risk factor may benefit from a screening. Some of the things that may increase your risk include tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, heavy alcohol use, previous oral cancer diagnosis or a history of significant sun exposure, which increases the risk of lip cancer.
Ask your dentist whether he/she thinks that cancer screening would be appropriate for you, based on your risk factors.
Todd McAdams, D.D.S.
420 Rocky Knob Lane