Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer is on the rise.  It is affecting more people of a different demographic than it used to.  Due to these changes, oral cancer screenings are more vital than ever!

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is any type of cancer that starts in the oral cavity.  Typically, oral cancer is classified as squamous cell carcinoma, which most people know as a skin cancer.  This type of cancer begins in the outermost layer of tissue in the mouth, and it causes visible changes on the surface of the cheeks, lip, gums, tongue, and floor of the mouth.

Oral cancer has the best prognosis when you catch it early.  For this reason, seeing a dentist who performs an oral cancer screening at every professional teeth cleaning visit is one of your best weapons in the fight against oral cancer.

Oral cancer affects 50,000 Americans newly diagnosed each year and kills one American every hour.  Usually, oral cancer is not aggressive, and the reason for the high mortality rate is that people do not catch it until it is in its late stages.

Oral cancer screenings literally save your life!>

What Causes Oral Cancer?

The changes in the demographics of oral cancer in the last few decades have researchers looking deeper into the causes of oral cancer.  Historically, the typical oral cancer was a middle-aged white male who consistently used tobacco and alcohol.  For many decades, the known risk factors for oral cancer were (and still are):

  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Age
  • Chronic dental infections
  • Sun exposure on the lower lip

A dentist would suspect oral cancer in a 60 year old farmer (working outdoors) who dips tobacco and drinks beer every night and has not seen a dentist about his gum disease.  This type of oral cancer usually showed up on the sides of the tongue or the floor of the mouth.

Nowadays, we have to look beyond our middle-aged tobacco users when it comes to oral cancer.  Why?  Because oral cancer is now affecting more people under the age of 40 than ever before, regardless of race, gender, habits and dental care.  The big game changer is the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Researchers have found that oral cancers affecting this new demographic are linked to a specific strain of HPV.  The human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, and HPV-16 has been specifically linked with multiple types of cancer, including oral cancer.  Oral cancers linked to HPV frequently occur in the oropharynx, or very back of the mouth at the opening to the throat.

What is an Oral Cancer Screening?

An oral cancer screening is an evaluation of all of the tissues inside your mouth to look for suspicious areas or “red flags” that could lead to oral cancer.  You may have an oral cancer screening performed by your dentist, periodontist (gum specialist), oral surgeon, medical doctor, or other medical specialists like ENTs.  Because your dentist already evaluates the inside of your mouth regularly, he or she is your first line of defense.  If you do not currently see your dentist on a consistent basis, we hope this blog will change your mind.

At Premier Dental of Ohio, we care about more than just your teeth!  We perform oral cancer screenings on every patient who has a dental evaluation.  Many of our locations offer an advanced oral cancer screening using the Identafi system.

This unique tool uses a distinct spectrum of light to illuminate areas of the surface tissue that may have cellular changes.  When the cells of our mucosal (lining) tissue change, they reflect light differently than the normal tissue around them.

If you exhibit any areas that show signs of dangerous cellular changes in your mouth, your dentist will refer you to a specialist to have the suspicious tissue biopsied.  Early detection and removal is the key to a good long-term survival rate.

How Much does an Oral Cancer Screening Cost?

Oral cancer screenings at Premier Dental of Ohio are free of charge, and their value is priceless!

We take our part in the fight against oral cancer very seriously.  We never want cost to prevent someone from obtaining this important screening.  For this reason, we do not charge any fee for our oral cancer screenings.

If you want to join our fight against oral cancer, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our Oral Cancer Research Fund at the Ohio State University.

Why is an Oral Cancer Screening so Important?

The earliest stages of oral cancer usually go unnoticed by the patient.  The disease can proliferate without causing any pain or symptoms.  This is why having a professional screening every six months is essential to catching it early.  Our dentists are trained to thoroughly evaluate the entire mouth for signs of changes.  They know how to look for things in a way that a non-professional does not.

In addition, the disease often starts in areas people usually do not see on a consistent basis.  If you are not regularly checking the inside of your mouth, you need to start.  In the same way that doctors encourage women to do regular self-breast exams, we as dentists encourage all adults to perform regular self-oral exams. Six Step Screening contains a great tutorial on how to screen your mouth for oral cancer.

Has it Been a While Since Your Last Oral Cancer Screening?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule an oral cancer screening with our dentists.  We take care of much more than just teeth!