Oral cancer generally refers to cancers that occur in the mouth. It can range from benign growth in the mouth to a malignant tumor that spreads to other parts of the body.
Oral cancer screenings are an important part of your dental care routine, which involves regular physical exams of the face, neck, lips, and throat to check for lumps, sores, or discolored tissue. This screening is typically done during your routine dental checkup.
Who Is at Risk for Oral Cancer?
- Tobacco use is the primary risk factor for oral cancer. Smokers are six times more likely to get oral cancer than nonsmokers.
- Heavy alcohol use can also be a risk factor for oral cancer. People who excessively drink alcohol are more likely to use tobacco, which increases their risk of developing oral cancer. Approximately 25% of oral cancer cases are related to alcohol use.
- HPV is the virus that causes most cases of throat cancer. However, HPV doesn't cause all cases of throat cancer. It's important to visit your dentist for oral cancer screenings.
Why Is It Important to Get Screened for Oral Cancer?
The presence of cancerous and precancerous cells in the mouth is a common occurrence. However, many people do not realize that they have oral cancer, as symptoms often go unnoticed until the disease is in its later stages. This is why it is important to get regular oral cancer screenings, including exams, X-rays, and biopsies, to catch oral cancer in its early stages.
How Do Dentists Screen for Oral Cancer?
Dentists use a visual and tactile exam to check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, and other oral tissues for signs of oral cancer. They will inspect your oral cavity, gums, tongue, cheeks, and palate to look for any suspicious-looking lesions. Unexplained persistent ulcers or lumps can be indicative of oral cancer, which your dentist will assess.
They may also use VELscope® technology, which shines a blue light in the mouth to highlight abnormal tissue, or ViziLite® technology, which highlights abnormal tissue in a completely different way. As part of routine dental checkups, we offer our patients a free, non-invasive oral cancer screening once a year.
At Wade K. Marler, D.D.S, we offer the best dental care possible to each of our patients in a positive and relaxing environment. If you're ready to experience the best dental care, please contact us at (253) 852-0480 or visit us at 17203 SE 270th Pl, Covington, WA 98042.