Along with checking for cavities and inspecting the health of your gums, a routine dental exam with a licensed dentist can also detect early signs of oral cancer. According to a study published by the Oral Cancer Foundation, more than 53,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. The study also noted that oral cancer, also known as oropharyngeal cancer, is responsible for approximately 9,800 deaths in America each year. Given these statistics, not to mention the fact that April is oral cancer awareness month, those who haven’t been seen by a dentist in a while are encouraged to schedule a dental exam today. And those who have never had their teeth checked are encouraged to do the same.
ORAL CANCER SCREENINGS AT A NORTHBROOK DENTAL CLINIC
When performed as part of a regular dental checkup, most dentists, including those at many Northbrook dental clinics, will likely perform both a visual and physical examination of the patient’s oral cavity. That said, let’s take a closer look at what these two aspects of an oral cancer screening entail:
Visual exam – As the name might suggest, this part of the examination involves the dentist visually inspecting the patient’s face, neck, lips, and mouth for signs of cancer. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, some of the most common signs of oral cancer involving these particular parts of the body include the following:
- Lumps or bumps
- Unusual swelling
Some of the instruments used by a dentist during a visual exam may include a tongue depressor, a dental light, and a mirror.
Physical exam – This aspect of an oral cancer screening involves the dentist using their hands to feel for nodules or other unusual growths that may have formed on the buccal mucosa (inside of the cheeks), around the jaw, and under the chin. Further, the dentist will likely ask the patient whether or not they are experiencing any discomfort during the examination as pain is one of the many tell-tale signs of oral cancer.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IF A DENTIST IN NORTHBROOK SUSPECTS ORAL CANCER?
If your dentist in Northbrook suspects that you have developed oral cancer, he or she will likely order a biopsy, which entails removing a small amount of tissue from the mouth or throat and observing it under a microscope to determine whether or not it contains cancer cells. If the biopsy confirms that the patient has oral cancer, the dentist will likely refer them to an oncologist for further testing and treatment.
If diagnosed early, the 5-year survival rate for oral cancer is over 84 percent, according to cancer.net, which means that a routine dental checkup that includes an oral cancer screening could quite possibly save your life. That said, if you haven’t visited a dentist in a while, consider scheduling a dental exam with Dr. Steven Kacel, a well-regarded dentist that has been proudly serving the Northbrook community for more than 33 years.