Oral Cancer Screenings
Oral cancer screenings mean early detection so we can begin treatment immediately.
Who needs an oral cancer screening?
At Trinity Dental Centers, we perform oral cancer screenings with a visual and physical exam in response to a patient’s lifestyle choices, or upon a patient’s request. Everyone 18 and older should undergo oral cancer screenings, as it is best to check for issues before the symptoms manifest. Through early detection, treatment can start immediately. The two-part oral cancer screening involves evaluation of the gums, inner cheeks, the roof of the mouth, tonsils, throat, and underneath the tongue.
Why is an oral cancer screening necessary?
We recommend all our patients undergo oral cancer screenings, regardless of age or lifestyle choices. By taking preventative steps, either you have an assurance that everything is fine, or our dental care team works with you to quickly begin treatment at the earliest stages of oral cancer. At Trinity Dental Centers, we believe that identifying mouth cancer early through an oral cancer screening means that we can work toward eliminating the issue and have a greater chance for a cure.
What does an oral cancer screening involve?
Before the visual part of the exam, the patient must take out all removable dental appliances to show every area. Your dentist will use a light and mirror to see inside the nose and mouth, as well as a tongue depressor to hold down the tongue and look at the back of the mouth. The physical aspect of the oral cancer screening occurs either after or during the visual exam. After, the dentist will touch the head and cheeks, around the jaw, under the chin, and in the mouth to feel for abnormal lumps or masses.
At Trinity Dental Centers, we believe that the best way to detect oral cancer early is to perform an oral cancer screening at every checkup. The top eight areas we examine during our oral cancer screening are:
The extraoral examination:
1. Face: During the face part of the oral cancer screening, we check for masses, lack of symmetry, inflammation, unusual discoloration, or ulcers. We also evaluate the pigmented, risen, ulcerated, or hard areas of the skin.
2. Eyes: Any swelling of the eye area should be recorded and is a possible sign of a tumor. Drainage from your lacrimal system may be a sign of an obstructing mass in the maxillary sinus, nose, or facial soft tissue.
3. Ears and nose: During your oral cancer screening, we will do a thorough nasal examination, including touching the external nose overlying the sinuses for any unusual symptoms. Hearing should be tested by talking with you during the physical exam and assessing the state of your acoustic nerve.
4. Neck: You will be positioned at the dentist’s eye level, and they will palpate the neck with both hands, comparing both sides of your neck while checking for signs of enlarged lymph nodes. During the neck portion of your oral cancer screening, the jugular is examined first, then the region underneath the jaw, and down to the collarbone area.
5. Lips: Your lips should be evaluated with the mouth open and closed, checking for any irregularities in symmetry, color, or texture. First, your dentist will flip the lower lip and inspect the inside surface. This area should be smooth and similar in color.
The intraoral examination:
6. Tongue: During the intraoral part of your oral cancer screening, the dentist will ask you to stick out your tongue and move it back and forth. It should move easily and fully to both sides without spasming. The dentist will check for any masses, ulcers, or swelling.
7. Floor of the mouth: The dentist will insert gauze to dry out this part for easier inspection. Next, the dentist will insert a gloved finger beneath the tongue, palpate the glands in this region with both hands, checking for any abnormalities. This is one of the most common places for mouth cancer to occur.
8. Tonsils: While inspecting your tonsils during the oral cancer screening, the dentist will ask you to open wide, slowly breathe in, and say “Ahh.” This relaxes your tongue and offers the dentist a full view of the oropharynx, allowing them a better look at the entire tonsil region.