Checking for symptoms of oral cancer is one of the most important parts of your regular dental checkup, where your dentist performs a deep examination of oral tissues by looking at the roof, floor, and insides of your mouth and cheeks, lips, tongue, and gums. Other possible areas may include the face, neck, salivary glands, thyroid glands, and lymph nodes.
Your dentist looks out for any white or red patches, a bleeding sore that will not heal, a hard or thick lump or spot, crusted or roughened area, numb or tender mouth, or any changes in the way your teeth fit when you bit down.
A biopsy is the only way to diagnose oral cancer, where a sample of tissue from the mouth is taken and checked under a microscope. But your dentist may also point out any suspicious areas and extend the examination to the specific body part. Some dentists provide additional examination to diagnose cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions, like special lights, which are usually not covered by insurance.
An oral cancer examination is quick and painless, taking only a few minutes. There are many factors that contribute to oral cancer, some of which include smoking, excessive alcohol drinking, and human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted disease.
If you happen to detect any of the above-mentioned symptoms, contact your dentist without any delay. Moreover, practice a proper hygiene routine, which should include brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, tongue cleaning, and using an alcohol-free mouthwash. If you wear dentures and they don’t fit properly, you may be at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Talk to your dentist or doctor about your dentures. Keep away from smoking, excess drinking, and practice safe sex.
All in all, your dentist can check you for oral cancer and refer you to an expert for a proper diagnosis.