How Often Should I Have an Oral Cancer Screening?

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An oral cancer screening may sound intimidating, but it allows your dentist to identify signs of trouble early and potentially improve your treatment outcomes.

At Advanced Dentistry of Centre County in State College, PA, our team may perform fast and easy oral cancer screenings for patients as part of their annual dental health exams.

Keep reading to learn more about the importance of oral cancer screening and how often you should get them.

What are the signs of oral cancer?

Oral cancer (or mouth cancer) refers to an abnormal group of cells on the lips, tongue, roof or floor of the mouth, tonsils, or sides of your throat. Oral cancer is the most common type of head and neck cancer and is most common in people over age 60.

Other factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer include:

  • Tobacco use (of any kind)

  • Heavy alcohol consumption

  • A previous oral cancer diagnosis

  • Sun exposure of the lips

It's crucial to get an oral cancer screening from a trained dentist so that they can identify signs of cancer early when treatment is most likely to be successful and precancerous lesions can be more easily removed. Skipping oral cancer treatments may cause abnormal cells to spread to other parts of the body, making treatment much more challenging.

How do dentists perform an oral cancer screening?

Signs of oral cancer may appear on the jawbone, gums, lips, throat, tongue, soft and hard palates, the floor of the mouth, and salivary glands.

During your annual dental exam, you will be offered an oral cancer screening and informed of any costs not covered by your specific insurance plan. You'll also be asked to share details of your medical history, including any pain or irritation you've experienced in and around your mouth or any irregular lesions or sores.

During an oral cancer screening, the Advanced Dentistry of Centre County team will visually inspect your lips, mouth, and throat to look for signs of abnormal cell growth. If they find an area of concern, you may be referred to a specialist for a biopsy. Your dentist will also palpate the neck, chin, cheeks, and jaw and feel around inside your mouth with a gloved hand to detect any growths that are not visible to the naked eye.

In some cases, our team may use a dye to illuminate trouble spots or shine a light in the mouth to aid your dentist in detecting abnormal tissue.

While oral cancer screening can save lives, they are not 100% accurate in identifying the early signs of oral cancer. However, your chances of identifying problems early increase the more often you get these screenings.

How often should I get an oral cancer screening?

It's recommended to get an oral cancer screening every year during your annual check-up. You may also report any symptoms of oral cancer at your twice-yearly dental cleaning, at which point our team can help you make an appointment with a dentist for a screening.

If you suspect an oral health problem or have a sore that won't heal between your dental appointments, the Advanced Dentistry of Centre County team can perform an oral cancer screening at your request.

Oral cancer screenings are not considered painful.

Get an oral cancer screening in State College, PA

Regardless of whether or not you have specific concerns about oral cancer, it's wise to get a yearly examination.

To get started, schedule an appointment with the team at Advanced Dentistry of Centre County in State College, PA. We can answer any questions and address concerns at the appointment.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.