Oral cancer is a serious and often deadly disease that affects millions of people every year. But did you know that early detection can significantly improve your chances of survival? That’s where oral cancer screening comes in. At our dental office, we offer comprehensive screening services to help detect and diagnose oral cancer in its earliest stages. By taking just a few minutes out of your regular dental check-up to undergo a screening, you could potentially save your life. Don’t let oral cancer go undetected – schedule your screening today and take the first step towards protecting your health and wellbeing.
What is oral cancer screening?
Oral cancer is a significant public health concern in the United States, with approximately 54,000 new cases and 10,850 deaths reported in 2021. The incidence of oral cancer has been on the rise in recent years, particularly among younger individuals who do not have traditional risk factors such as smoking or heavy alcohol consumption. Men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer. Early detection and regular dental check-ups are crucial for identifying oral cancer in its early stages when it is more treatable.
During an oral cancer screening, the dentist carefully examines the mouth, throat, and surrounding tissues for any signs of abnormal growth or tissue changes that may indicate cancer. The dentist looks for any changes in color, texture, or shape of the tissues, as well as any visible lesions or sores. The dentist may also palpate the mouth and neck, feeling for any lumps, bumps, or abnormal growths.
An oral cancer screening is usually done as part of a routine dental exam. In addition, individuals who are heavy smokers or have a family history of the disease are at a higher risk for oral cancer and should be screened more frequently.
Is it time for your oral cancer screening? Call us at Gaithersburg Dental Care to schedule your appointment today.
What to expect during an oral cancer screening
During an oral cancer screening, the dentist may first ask the patient about any symptoms they have experienced, such as persistent mouth sores, difficulty swallowing or speaking, or chronic hoarseness. The dentist may also inquire about the patient’s lifestyle habits, such as tobacco or alcohol use, as these are risk factors for oral cancer.
Expect A Visual Exam
The next step in an oral cancer screening is a visual examination of the mouth, palate, tongue, gums, throat, and lips. The dentist looks for any changes in color, texture, or shape of the tissues, as well as any visible lesions or sores.
The dentist will then palpate the mouth and neck, feeling for any lumps, bumps, or abnormal growths. The dentist may also gently press on the lymph nodes in the neck to check for swelling or tenderness.
VELscope or ViziLite
The dentist may also use a VELscope or ViziLite system to aid in the detection of abnormal tissue growth. These systems use a special light that highlights any tissue changes that may be indicative of cancer.
If the dentist finds any suspicious areas, they may recommend an oral brush biopsy, which involves removing a small sample of tissue for further testing.
With any suspicious finding, the dentist will refer the patient to an oral surgeon or oncologist for further evaluation and treatment.
What are the symptoms or signs of oral cancer?
Individuals who use tobacco products, consume alcohol heavily, or have a history of HPV infection are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Regular dental check-ups can help detect oral cancer in its early stages. Consult a dental professional for an oral exam as soon as possible if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent mouth sores that don’t heal
- Red or white patches on the tongue or gums
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking
- Chronic hoarseness or sore throat
- A lump or thickening in the cheek or neck
- Numbness or tingling in the mouth or tongue
- Loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit properly
If you experience any of these symptoms or signs, it’s important to schedule a consultation for an oral cancer screening and dental exam.
How to screen for oral cancer at home
While regular dental check-ups with a healthcare professional are essential for oral cancer screening, it is also important to conduct regular at-home screenings to help detect any changes or abnormalities in your mouth.
Here are the steps to conduct an at-home oral cancer screening:
- Start by standing in front of a well-lit mirror and opening your mouth wide.
- Use your fingers to feel for any lumps, bumps or changes in texture on the roof of your mouth, tongue, cheeks, and gums.
- Check the inside of your lips and look for any sores, ulcers, or white or red patches.
- Check the back of your throat and tonsils for any lumps, bumps or changes in texture.
- Examine your neck and jaw area for any swelling or lumps that are not normally present.
- Repeat this examination once a month and keep a record of any changes or abnormalities that you notice.
An at-home oral cancer screening is not a substitute for regular dental check-ups with a healthcare professional. If you notice any changes or abnormalities during an at-home screening, it is important to schedule an appointment with a dental or healthcare professional as soon as possible for a thorough examination and diagnosis.
What is VELscope and viziLite technology?
The VELscope system uses a special blue light that highlights abnormal tissue in the mouth. The light causes healthy tissue to fluoresce, while abnormal tissue appears dark. This technology can help identify precancerous and cancerous lesions that may not be visible to the naked eye. The VELscope system is a non-invasive and painless diagnostic tool that can be used during routine dental check-ups.
The ViziLite system is another technology that uses a blue light to detect abnormal tissue in the mouth. A special rinse is used to temporarily stain abnormal tissue, which appears white under the blue light. This technology can also help detect precancerous and cancerous lesions in the mouth. Like the VELscope system, the ViziLite system is a useful diagnostic tool that is suitable for use during routine dental check-ups.
Both the VELscope and ViziLite systems are effective diagnostic tools for the early detection of oral cancer. These technologies can help detect oral cancer in its early stages, when it is more treatable and has a higher chance of successful outcomes. In addition to early detection, these technologies can also reduce the need for invasive biopsies, which can be uncomfortable and costly.
What is a dental brush biopsy?
A dental brush biopsy is a diagnostic procedure that is sometimes used to diagnose oral lesions or suspicious growths in the mouth. It involves the use of a small, soft brush that is gently rubbed against the area of concern to collect a sample of cells.
The collected cells are then sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope to determine if they are cancerous or precancerous. A dental brush biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure that can be performed in the dentist’s office and usually does not require any anesthesia.
Dental brush biopsies are often used to diagnose oral lesions that are too small to be seen with the naked eye or that do not appear to be cancerous based on a visual examination. They are also used to monitor the growth of lesions over time and to determine the effectiveness of treatment.
While dental brush biopsies can be a useful diagnostic tool, they are not always conclusive and may need to be followed up with a more invasive biopsy or other diagnostic tests. It is important to discuss any concerns about oral lesions with a dental or healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate course of action.
ADDITIONAL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ORAL CANCER SCREENING
Who is at risk of developing oral cancer?
Anyone can develop oral cancer, but those at higher risk include individuals who smoke or use tobacco products, consume excessive alcohol, or have a family history of cancer.
How often should I get an oral cancer screening?
It is recommended to get an oral cancer screening at least once a year during your routine dental check-up.
Is an oral cancer screening painful?
No, an oral cancer screening is typically painless and only takes a few minutes to complete.
How is an oral cancer screening performed?
An oral cancer screening is typically performed by a dentist or healthcare professional, who will examine your mouth for any signs or symptoms of oral cancer.
Is there a dentist near me in Gaithersburg that offers oral cancer screening?
Yes. At our Gaithersburg dental office we offer oral cancer screening to patients in Gaithersburg and the surrounding area. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.