What are Oral Cancer Screenings?

According to the National Cancer Institute, there were an estimated 54,000 new cases of oral cancer in the United States in 2022. Unfortunately, oral cancer has only a 68% five year relative survival rate. The keys to surviving oral cancer are early detection and early treatment. This starts with a regular oral cancer screening – at least once every six months. An oral cancer screening takes just minutes, is pain-free and performed during regular dental cleanings and exams. Oral cancer screenings involve your dentist or hygienist examining your lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, throat, and roof and floor of your mouth for any irregularities or changes in the tissue. This ensures that you not only have a beautiful smile, but also amazing overall oral health.

Why would Oral Cancer Screenings be needed?

Any patient can develop oral cancer, however certain lifestyle factors such as having a history of smoking or using chewing tobacco greatly increases the risks of developing oral cancer. Due to oral cancer having a lower long term survival rate, it is especially important to detect any potential lesions early so that they can be properly evaluated and, if necessary, treated more effectively. The screening itself takes just minutes and can be helpful in preventing future oral health problems.

Who is a candidate for Oral Cancer Screenings?

Regular oral cancer screenings are recommended for all adult patients and are completed in just a few minutes during dental cleanings and exams. If you are male, a routine oral cancer screening is especially critical: oral cancer is more than twice as common in men as it is in women. Other people at high risk of developing oral cancer include people over the age of 60, tobacco users and heavy drinkers.

What happens during Oral Cancer Screenings?

During dental cleanings and exams, we will thoroughly examine all soft tissues in your mouth including your lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, throat, and roof and floor of your mouth. We pay special attention to any unusual lesions, lumps, discolorations, or plaques forming on these tissues, especially if they are new developments. If we find anything suspicious, we will recommend a biopsy be performed by an oral surgeon to determine if this lesion is benign or cancerous. Most oral cancer screenings demonstrate perfectly healthy mouths and even patients referred for biopsy are usually negative for oral cancer. Although oral cancer is rare, it has a low survival rate, therefore it is crucial to have regular screenings completed to ensure any cancerous lesions are detected and treated early.

What Types of Tools Are Used?