General dentist are known for treating the oral health of their patients, along with diagnostic care and preventive care. However, many are less familiar with the ways in which general dentists can improve patients’ smiles through cosmetic and orthodontic care. Every general dentist has their own list of cosmetic dental services, although some are more common.…
General Dentistry: A Guide to Oral Cancer Detection
An oral cancer screening should be expected during a general dentistry visit. Oral cancer is not just one condition but covers every form of cancer that affects oral cavity structures, including the mouth, tongue, throat, lips, and sinuses. Scientists have identified a link between the condition and certain factors like tobacco use, sun exposure, and heavy drinking. But oral cancer can also affect non-smokers and occasional alcohol users.
Oral cancer screening
The chances of treating oral cancer successfully are higher if the condition is detected early. An early diagnosis puts the survival rate at about 80-90%. Unfortunately, the condition hardly shows any noticeable symptoms until its advanced stage. The survival rate at that point goes down to 20% or 30%. Therefore, most general dentists include an oral cancer screening in their routine general dentistry exam.
The screening process is straightforward and painless. Detection requires detailed visual and physical examination and other steps to identify possible issues that may be hidden from view. The dentist will carefully examine the mouth (including the throat and gums) carefully for discoloration, lumps, sores, or any physical signs, like inflammation or soreness with no identifiable cause. They may also palpitate the areas. They will note any symptoms, and if additional tests are necessary, the process will be discussed with the patient.
The screening procedure may also require X-ray scans or ultrasounds to detect issues that may have been missed during the visual and physical exam. An MRI or CT scan can also provide more detailed images and an overview of the oral cavity structures. The dentist may suggest additional processes, such as an endoscopy, as part of the screening. An endoscopy shows full images of the nasal passages and throat.
If the dentist detects an area of concern during the evaluation, they will recommend a biopsy to analyze the tissue and determine if it is cancerous or benign. The result of the biopsy will determine the next step of treatment.
When to go for an oral cancer screening
Dental professionals suggest yearly screenings for patients above age 18. Also, people who are at higher risks, like tobacco users, should undergo more frequent screenings. A screening takes only a few minutes. Aside from visiting the dentist for routine screenings, it is advisable to contact the dentist immediately after noticing strange signs like sores that fail to heal after two weeks, lumps or discoloration in the mouth, numbness, wart-like masses, or pain or difficulty when talking, swallowing, or chewing.
Regular exams are critical for early oral cancer detection and treatment. A screening is included in general dentistry checkups. During a dental appointment, be sure to mention any symptoms that you may have noticed since your last appointment, so they can tell you if there is any reason to be concerned. It is important that you do not dismiss any possible symptoms of oral cancer. The dental team will work with you to provide effective treatment if any condition is identified.
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