Oral Cancer Screening Chapel Hill
fall in love with your smile
Oral Cancer Screening for Oral Health Care Maintenance
There are approximately 50,000 cases of oral cancer in Americans diagnosed every year, 10,000 of which will be fatal. Though once believed to be limited to smokers, oral cancer is now believed to be linked to several different factors, including gender (men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer compared to women), genetic predisposition, alcohol consumption, and ethnicity.
Because oral cancer can occur for a variety of reasons, it is incredibly important to practice regular oral exams and to have an annual oral cancer screening as part of your oral health care maintenance. Like all forms of cancer, early detection is your best bet to having a positive prognosis.
If you would like to schedule an appointment or if you have any questions about our treatment options, please contact our office at (919) 595-1010. We look forward to creating the smile you have always desired a reality for you.
Oral Cancer Screening Process
Oral cancer screenings can be completed in as little as five minutes. Prior to conducting the screening, we will review and discuss your medical history. During your oral cancer screening, your dentist will look for signs of abnormal tissue. Oral cancer symptoms will typically present as rough patches, hard lumps, or white and red bumps, but can also present as patients experiencing fatigue or having lost weight without trying to. In addition to looking for any visual signs of issues, your dentist will also feel inside of your mouth and around your cheeks to look for any signs of hardened tissue.
It is common for people to experience anxiety during this process, but our staff is committed to ensuring that you are comfortable with the process and will explain what we are looking for and why every step of the way. By explaining the process, patients tend to feel more at ease. This also has the benefit of educating patients on oral cancer issues and how to engage in early detection.
Although there is no way to definitively prevent oral cancer from developing, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. One of the biggest risk factors in developing oral cancer is the use of tobacco products, and in particular, chewing tobacco. Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase a patient’s likelihood of developing oral cancer. Research does not indicate that moderate drinking significantly increases an individual’s risk, but consistent or binge drinking can be a contributing factor. In addition to avoiding or limiting alcohol and tobacco, avoiding excessive exposure to the sun can also help reduce the risk of oral cancer developing.
In addition to scheduling oral examinations every six months, it is also important to practice regular self-examinations for oral cancer. If you are at an increased risk for oral cancer or worried that you may currently have oral cancer, here is a step by step process for testing yourself at home:
- First (if applicable), remove any orthodontic appliances or dentures
- Tilt your head back so you can easily and comfortably examine the roof of your mouth
- Stretch your cheeks out so you can easily massage your gums to better identify and/or feel any new growths or abnormalities
- Mass your neck/jaw, paying attention for any indications of lumps or enlarged glands
- If you notice any of the following symptoms, be sure to contact your dentist immediately:
- Chronic sore throat, hoarseness, or cough
- Difficulty swallowing
- Lumps that develop in your neck
- Sores that do not heal or are bleeding
- White and/or red patches
If your dentist suspects that oral cancer is present, they will schedule a biopsy to be performed. If the results of the biopsy show that oral cancer is present, we will discuss treatment options with you. One of the most common approaches to treating oral cancer is removal of the tumor. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also common treatment options, especially the tumor is located in an area that involves a lot of tissue. By using targeted methods, it will be possible to protect the healthy tissue while attacking the cancerous cells.
If you find yourself facing this difficult diagnosis, please know that we will be with you every step of the way. We help each patient develop a treatment plan that is informed by the severity of their cancer, any current health issues they have, their oral health history, and what their treatment goals are. In addition to helping you receive the care you need, we are also prepared to provide you with the post-treatment care you need to enjoy a full and speedy recovery.
Regular Cleaning Benefits
Some of the best ways to maintain your oral health and address issues before they progress too far is to practice good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing twice daily, performing regular self-examinations, being mindful of your diet by limiting alcohol intake, and perhaps most importantly, scheduling regular dental exams. If you do have oral cancer, your best chance at having a good prognosis is to catch the cancer as early as possible. By visiting your dentist every six months, you will not only receive a deep cleaning that will improve your oral health, but you will also have the benefit of a trained professional who can spot these types of issues and begin treatment as soon as possible.
High-Quality Dental Care
At Cornerstone Family Dentistry in Chapel Hill, all our services are performed with the patient in mind. We want you to feel comfortable in the dental chair, confident in our work, and most importantly, we want you to fall in love with your smile again. If you would like to schedule an appointment or if you have any questions about cosmetic procedures that we offer, please contact us at (919) 595-1010.