How Often Should You Have an Oral Cancer Screening?

How Often Should You Have an Oral Cancer Screening?

Jul 05, 2022

Research by the American Dental Association estimates that as many as 35,000 individuals are diagnosed with oral cancer yearly. From that number, about 25% of these patients die. Fortunately, you can prevent oral cancer from getting to life-threatening stages. Early detection and treatment significantly increase your chances of successful treatment and survival.

Regular oral cancer screenings are your best chance of catching oral cancer early before it progresses to severe and life-threatening stages. Typically, you should have at least one oral cancer screening a year. If you haven’t had an oral cancer screening recently, schedule an appointment with our dentist in Newburyport, MA.

What is Oral Cancer Screening?

Oral cancer affects any part of the mouth or oral cavity. Oral or mouth cancer can occur on the throat, tongue, gums, lips, inner cheeks, the floor of the mouth, and palate. In the early stages, oral cancer shows minimal signs. For instance, it can begin with minor mouth discomfort or a pimple. Most people will ignore such symptoms or treat them with over-the-counter medications.

Oral cancer usually shows notable symptoms when it has progressed to advanced stages. Oral cancer can be difficult to self-diagnose, making it necessary to have regular oral cancer screenings. During the screening, the dentist will inspect your mouth for signs of oral cancer.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

  • Persistent mouth pain
  • Persistent mouth sores that don’t heal
  • White or red patches of the gums, tonsils, tongue, or lining of the mouth
  • Persistent sore throat or a feeling there’s something stuck in the throat
  • Numbness of the tongue or mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Jaw swelling
  • A lump or bump in the cheek, gums, or neck
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Difficulty moving the tongue or jaw
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Pain in the jaw or teeth
  • Changes in your voice

What to Expect During Oral Cancer Screening?

An oral cancer screening is a straightforward and pain-free procedure. The dentist will begin by reviewing your oral and overall medical history. Next, they use a mirror, light, and tongue depressor to examine your throat, tongue, palate, tongue, lips, cheeks, neck, tonsils, gums, and under the chin for abnormalities or unusual symptoms.

If anything unusual is detected, the dentist will recommend additional exams like:

  • Dental x-rays
  • A special light that reflects unusual tissues differently from normal tissue.
  • A toluidine blue dye that turns blue if abnormal tissues are found.
  • A combination of light and acetic acid solution
  • A biopsy entails removing tissues from the suspected area to examine them for oral cancer.

Contact our dentist for oral cancer screening in Newburyport.

How Often to Go for Oral Cancer Screening?

Even if you have excellent oral and overall health, there’s still a chance of developing oral cancer. Regular oral cancer screenings will allow you to review your health and provide peace of mind.

Generally, experts have different opinions on how often you should go for oral cancer screening. The standard recommendation for adults over 40 years is to be screened at least once yearly. Adults over 20 years but under 40 should have a screening every three years.

You may need more regular screenings if you’re at a greater risk of oral cancer. Most dentists include an oral cancer screening as part of routine dental exams and cleanings. Consult your dentist or doctor about how often you should have an oral cancer screening.

Common risk factors for oral cancer include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Prolonged sun exposure (lip cancer)
  • Heavy alcohol consumption (riskier when combined with tobacco use)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Family history or prior diagnosis of oral cancer
  • Underlying oral issues

How to Prevent Oral Cancer

While there’s no proven way to prevent oral cancer, here are a few tips to reduce your risk of developing oral cavity cancer:

  • Avoid or limit tobacco use.
  • If you must take alcohol, take it in moderation.
  • Maintain excellent oral hygiene and habits.
  • Seek treatment for existing oral issues like gum disease.
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure to prevent skin cancer.
  • Schedule frequent dental assessments and cleanings.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Ready to schedule your next oral cancer screening? Or perhaps you need more information about oral cancer? Contact Newburyport Family Dental to book your appointment today.

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