Oral Cancer Exam
The best way to avoid tooth decay and gum disease is to maintain good oral hygiene. Taking proper care of your teeth at home and scheduling regular visits with your dentist are the keys to a healthy mouth. Cleaning your teeth appropriately on a daily basis at home to avoid plaque buildup is only one part of the plan. Seeing your dentist every six month for cleaning, exams, x-rays, and other screenings and treatments will ensure a lifelong healthy smile.
As part of your regular dental exam, your dentist will perform an oral cancer screening. In most cases, this simply involves a visual examination of the soft tissues in the mouth. Any red or white patches or mouth sores are inspected closely, as are lumps or other abnormal tissue changes.
Many people have mouth sores or other irregularities in tissues, and most of these are non-cancerous. If the dentist sees an area that appears suspicious or questionable, a test will be performed to determine whether the area is cancerous. The test is called a biopsy.
In a biopsy, a few of the abnormal cells are removed and tested in a laboratory. The results are generally available from your dentist within a few days.
People with a higher risk for oral cancer include: smokers, tobacco chewers, people who drink alcohol heavily, and those with prior instances of oral cancer.