How Often Should You Have An Oral Cancer Screening?

How Often Should You Have An Oral Cancer Screening?

June 1, 2022

Early detection of mouth cancer can improve a patient’s chances of preventing or treating oral cancer. Your dentist may recommend having a regular oral cancer screening to examine your entire mouth. Adults over 20 years should have an oral cancer screening every three years, while those over 40 years should have at least one screening per year.

People with risk factors such as adults who are heavy drinkers, use tobacco, have a family history of cancer, or have a human papillomavirus should at least request an annual oral cancer screening.

Frequency of Oral Cancer Screenings

Many opinions about how often one should be screened for oral cancer. These opinions vary. However, the average recommendation should be at least once a year or every other dental visit. Patients will benefit by having an oral cancer screening during each dental appointment. This would make the frequency twice a year. It is important to prevent cancer as soon as it is noticeable so that the patient can treat or fight it.

Why Is Oral Cancer Screening Done

The goal of undergoing an oral cancer screening is to detect mouth cancer or any precancerous lesions or growths that may lead to mouth cancer at an early stage. This is when lesions or cancer are easier to remove and most likely can be cured.

But no studies have proven that oral cancer screening saves lives, so that some organizations may disagree about the benefits or oral cancer for oral cancer screening. Therefore, some organizations may recommend while others say that there isn’t enough evidence to make a recommendation.

People with a high risk of mouth cancer can be more likely to benefit from oral cancer screening though there is not enough study to prove this. Certain factors may increase the risk of oral cancer. This includes:

  • Heavy alcohol use
  • A previous oral health diagnosis
  • Tobacco use of any kind, like cigars, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipers, and snuff.
  • A history of significant sun exposure thus increases the risk of lip cancer.
  • Gender, age, and family history can also increase the risk of having oral cancer.

The number of people diagnosed with throat and mouth cancer has been rising for several years, though it is not so clear. An increasing number of them are associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV).

What Does an Oral Cancer Screening Entail?

An oral cancer screening near you begins with a clinical exam of your mouth and throat. Your dentist in Wayzata will use a mirror, light, and a tongue depressor to look for any abnormality in your mouth, like patches of color, bumps, swelling, or ulcerations.

All areas of your oral cavity will be examined, including the roof of your mouth, inner cheeks, tongue, tonsils, and gums. Your dentist will also palpate the neck, the jaw, the chin, and the outside of your cheeks to feel for any unusual growths or firm nodules.

If your dentist detects any abnormalities, they will use a special dye and a special light to evaluate the area for oral cancer. Some of the tests done during an oral cancer screening in Wayzata include:

  • Using a laser light reflects an abnormal tissue differently from how it does normal tissue.
  • Spreading a toluidine blue dye over the abnormal area will turn blue if an irregular tissue is found.
  • Rinsing your mouth with an acetic acid solution and then use a special light to examine the area.

Dentists often recommend that adults conduct monthly self-exams at home to check for oral cancer and report changes such as lumps and sore or white patches to their dentist.

The Risks of Oral Cancer Screening

Oral exams at Bruce Martinson Family Cosmetic Dentistry for oral cancer have some risks, and these may include:

  • Oral cancer screening can lead to additional tests

Many people have growths in the mouth, most of them being noncancerous. Unfortunately, an oral exam cannot determine which are noncancerous or which ones are; therefore, additional tests have to be done to determine if it is cancerous. This additional test is called a biopsy.

  • Oral cancer screening has not been proved o save lives.

There is no evidence that routine oral cancer examinations to detect oral cancer can reduce the number of deaths caused by mouth cancer. However, screening helps detect cancer early when the treatment is more likely.

  • Oral cancer screening cannot detect all the mouth cancers
  • Small cancer or a precancerous lesion can easily go undetected during the oral examination