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While procedures like dental implants or veneers can be more exciting because they help transform your smile, other preventive forms of treatment, like oral cancer screenings, are also important and shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, our Cadillac, MI, dentists recommend most patients receive a screening at least once a year.
Here are the various components of an oral cancer screening and when it’s a good idea to pencil one into your calendar.
Breaking it Down: Parts of an Oral Cancer Screening
When you come in for a teeth cleaning every 6 months, the appointment will start with one of our hygienists screening you for oral cancer. The screening itself is fast, pain-free, and though it makes up a small portion of your visit, it’s crucial for catching symptoms before it’s too late.
Anconsists of two main parts: a visual and a physical exam. Our hygienist will be sure to give you a heads up before starting so you’re aware of what’s happening.
We’ll start with the visual portion and ask that any removable dental appliances, like dentures, are removed so the entire mouth can be observed. During this part of the screening, our hygienist will use a light and mirror to look for:
- Lip or mouth sores
- White or red patches inside the mouth
- Loose teeth
- Abnormal swellings, lumps, or bumps
Your face, lips, neck, cheeks, and mouth will all be visually examined for asymmetries and obvious abnormalities. If all looks normal, our hygienist will move on to the physical portion of the screening.
Besides visual observation, our hygienist will also gently touch your face, mouth, and neck to check for any hard lumps of tissue. You may not always notice developing masses as early stages of oral cancer are commonly painless. Having a simple screening performed can be what saves you in the end.
Both a physical and visual exam are helpful when it comes to oral examination.. If it’s been awhile since you’ve last been screened or you are concerned about a related symptom, please schedule an appointment with our dentists so we can perform an
Keep These Risk Factors in Mind
Thecan be difficult to predict but there are a few factors that can increase someone’s risk for developing the condition. While genetics and family history can come into play here, they are not the only contributing factors.
Oral cancer may pose a higher risk for you if you:
- Are 55+ years old
- Smoke or use other tobacco products
- Excessively consume alcohol
- Have a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Expose your lips to the sun without protection, i.e., lip balm
What Comes After the Exam?
If everything looks good and feels normal during the screening, we’ll proceed with your teeth cleaning and ask you to return in another 6 months. Should something appear abnormal and require further evaluation, our dentists will inform you of any additional tests needed. We may also ask that you come back in after a week or so to see if the area has changed.
Schedule Your Screening Today
You might not feel like you need an oral cancer screening from our dentists in Cadillac, MI, but there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe. The screening itself is quick, painless, and can be done while you’re already in for your routine teeth cleaning. Call LifeSmiles Dentistry today at (231) 775-8281 to request an appointment.