What to Expect During an Oral Cancer Screening

Every patient should receive routine oral cancer screenings. Although oral cancer is most common in tobacco users and former users, it can also be caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). This means that oral cancer could potentially affect anyone. Talk to your dentist about having an oral cancer screening. The sooner oral cancer is detected, the more easily and effectively it can be treated.

Visual Exam

Before asking you to open your mouth, the dentist will examine your face and neck. He or she will look for signs of abnormalities, such as facial asymmetry. While you’re speaking with the dentist, he or she will check whether a corner of your lip appears stiff or droopy. Audible hoarseness of the voice is another red flag, particularly if your throat doesn’t hurt and you don’t have a cold.

Physical Exam

Using gloved hands, your dentist will palpate or feel the area around your mouth, jaw, and lymph nodes in the neck. He or she is checking for any unusual lumps. Then, you’ll be asked to open your mouth. The dentist will use gloved fingers to feel the soft tissues all around the interior of your mouth. While feeling for lumps and areas of thickened tissue, the dentist will also visually inspect all parts of your mouth for unusual sores, lesions, or areas of discoloration. The dentist will use a piece of gauze to gently grasp your tongue and move it from side to side. This allows him or her to carefully check each side and the underside of the tongue for abnormalities. If you experience discomfort at any point during the exam, you should inform your dentist immediately. Oral cancer screenings by themselves don’t cause discomfort, but an oral health problem might.

John Carson, DDS routinely performs thorough oral cancer screenings on his patients. Call our office in Tucson at (520) 514-7203 if you’d like to make an appointment for an exam.


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