Dentists recommend going for a dental checkup every six months. By making this a habit, your dentist will be able to help you get rid of plaque and avoid tooth decay and gum disease.
You will also be able to save money since your dentist can prevent dental problems from getting worse and requiring expensive treatments.
During a routine dental checkup, your dentist will conduct an interview, a medical history check, and a thorough investigation of your teeth, gums, jaws, and mouth. You also undergo oral prophylaxis or professional teeth cleaning.
In the past years, many dentists have also started including oral cancer screening in their routine dental exams. This is because this condition is now one of the most common types of cancer in the world.
Moreover, if oral cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the five-year survival rate for patients is 70 to 85 percent, which is quite high.
Due to these reasons, to reduce your risk for this disease, ask your dentist to conduct an oral cancer screening during your routine dental checkup if this is not included in his or her procedure.
The thought of going for your first oral cancer screening in Fort Lauderdale can be nerve-wracking and even terrifying. Most types of cancer screening exams understandably have this effect.
Knowing what to expect from your first oral cancer screening can help assuage your fears and make you feel more confident about undergoing the procedure.
Below are the steps involved in an oral cancer screening process:
If the screening is not part of a routine dental checkup, your dentist will ask you questions about your medical history and oral health.
During this part, be honest and open with your dentist about anything unusual you feel in your mouth. Make sure you tell your specialist about any changes to your oral health as well.
If you use tobacco products, tell your dentist how many cigarettes you smoke daily.
You can also ask your dentist any questions you may have regarding your oral health.
Once done with the interview, the dentist will conduct a variety of tests to diagnose or rule out oral cancer.
These tests include:
- Lip and cheek exam – The dentist will roll his or her fingers over your cheeks and lips, looking for bumps or unusual patches that could indicate cancer.
- Neck exam – This part involves having the dentist feeling your neck to check for enlarged lymph nodes, which are often a sign of oral cancer.
- Tongue exam – Under this test, the dentist will hold your tongue and extend it as far as it can go. He or she will then examine the sides of your tongue and underneath, looking for unusual red and white patches and lumps.
- Floor exam or simultaneous probe – This part involves pressing on the floor of your mouth and underneath it at the same time to feel for bumps.
- Palate exam – The dentist will check the roof of your mouth for red or white patches, lumps or bumps, and soft areas that should not be present on your hard palate.
- Tonsil exam – This requires the dentist to depress your tongue to examine your tonsils for bumps, redness, and other abnormalities.
Aside from visual and physical exams, your dentist may also use an oral cancer screening device. An example of this tool uses a safe blue light that allows your dentist to identify precancerous cells in the oral cavity.
After the exam, if your dentist finds an abnormality during the screening, they will take a sample of the questionable tissue and send it to a lab for a biopsy.
Your dentist will also discuss the findings that they are already sure about.
Keep in mind that oral cancer can only be diagnosed after a biopsy. As such, your dentist can provide a complete diagnosis after they get the result.
Additionally, your dentist will also refer you to a specialist if they see something unfavorable in the result of the screening. If you need oral surgery in Fort Lauderdale, your dentist will work with your doctor throughout the process as well.
Your follow-up discussion also involves your dentist giving you advice on how to reduce your risk for cancer. Their tips will include the following:
- Stop smoking or using tobacco products. Prolonged use of tobacco or nicotine increases your risk of oral cancer.
- Reduce your intake of alcohol. Stick to one to two drinks each day or avoid them altogether. You will reduce your risk for any type of cancer if you stop both smoking and drinking booze.
- Protect your lips from the sun. Wear lip gloss or lip balm with UVA and B protection when going out and minimize your exposure to direct sunlight.
- Modify your diet. Start consuming more cancer-fighting food such as green leafy vegetables, lean proteins, berries, beans, and citrus fruits.
- Opt for healthier cooking methods. Eat more baked, steamed, and boiled food instead of fried, grilled, and barbecued meat and other dishes.
- Work out regularly. An active lifestyle helps boost your immune system and reduces your risk for most types of cancer.
- Get vaccinated for human papillomavirus or HPV. HPV is linked to oropharyngeal cancers, particularly those that develop at the back of the mouth. The vaccination can lower your chances of getting this type of cancer.
- Follow proper oral hygiene practices. This means brushing and flossing your teeth properly regularly. An unhealthy mouth attracts bacteria, which can weaken your immune system and affect your body’s ability to fight off potential cancers.
- Conduct an oral self-exam once a month. Use a mirror to look at hard-to-see areas. Open your mouth wide and check your inner cheek and the sides of your tongue. Be on the lookout for suspicious lumps, tender spots, and white or red patches. You can also ask your dentist for tips for doing this properly.
Undergoing regular oral cancer screening will help you reduce your risk. As such, ask your dentist to include this in your routine dental checkups.
With more and more people getting oral cancer, it is best to be on your guard against this health threat. If you haven’t been screened yet, schedule one with your dentist today.