Do you ever wonder what your dental team member is doing when they hold out your tongue and feel around the base of your mouth at a dental cleaning and exam? Chances are, they are looking for signs of oral cancer. At Babcock Family Dental, Dr. Nikhaar Keshwani performs quick oral cancer screening as a preventive activity at every oral hygiene appointment.
When cells in the oral cavity mutate, oral cancer (mouth cancer) forms. This type of cancer encompasses all the soft tissue that you see when you open your mouth widely and look in the mirror, including the:
Plus, other soft tissues that are connected to the mouth, like the:
The American Cancer Society reports thousands of new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancers every year, and most people diagnosed with these are around the age of 63 years. But mouth cancer can impact people of all ages. As a matter of fact, 1 in 5 cases of oral cancer impact patients younger than 55.
Due to prevalence, most oral health professionals suggest oral cancer screenings at least once a year at routine dental cleaning and check-up appointments. At Babcock Family Dental, Dr. Keshwani breaks up cancer screenings into two parts: a visual exam and a physical exam. Here’s what you can expect:
Before the oral cancer screening, Dr. Keshwani will kindly ask you to remove your dentures or other dental appliances. Then, she will look for abnormalities in the face, neck, and all body parts susceptible to oral cancer.
Besides looking for visual signs of oral cancer, Dr. Keshwani will feel for any hard, unusual lumps, bumps, nodules, and masses.
Although it’s wise to undergo professional oral cancer screenings often, you can look for signs of cancer at home—and it can be as quick as brushing your teeth. Remove dentures or other dental appliances, grab a flashlight, and a sterilized glove to look for signs of oral and gum cancer:
Using a flashlight, look for the following oral cancer symptoms:
With a gloved hand, feel for lumps or bumps that protrude from soft tissues along the cheeks, gums, and under the tongue.
Even though oral cancer symptoms can become painful and destructive in due time, the early stages can go unnoticed. Oral cancer screenings are more than a simple physical exam. They serve as an opportunity to speak with the Babcock Family Dental team about your fears and concerns regarding oral cancer.