Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer is on the rise, particularly in young people. Although tobacco still causes a large percentage of oral cancer cases each year, the HPV virus is quickly becoming the new leading cause of oral cancer.

Regardless of the cause, oral cancer has the best prognosis when it is caught early. At Chappell Family Dentistry, we care about the health and well-being of our patients. That is why every patient gets an oral cancer screening at their new patient exam and every regular dental cleaning.

About Oral Cancer

We don’t hear much about oral cancer, but according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, over 49,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. Historically, oral cancer has a high death rate with about half of people diagnosed with it surviving for five years. That isn’t because oral cancer is hard to discover and diagnose. Due to a lack of screenings, many cases of oral cancer progress for long periods of time before they are noticed and examined by a dentist or doctor.

Oral cancer doesn’t always look the same. It can appear as a sore that just doesn’t heal, but it can also appear as a lump, or a red or white patch. People may first notice a sore throat, an altered sensation in the mouth or difficulty swallowing.

Besides cancer, there are many other oral diseases and conditions that we may find. At Chappell Family Dentistry, we see a lot of mouths and can tell you if what you see in your mouth is normal or worrisome.

How We Screen for Oral Cancer

The procedure we use to screen for oral cancer is nothing to be afraid of. We start outside the mouth in your neck area. We feel around for bumps that aren’t supposed to be there and for any asymmetrical areas.

Next, we feel the muscles associated with your jaws, checking for the same things, but also assessing the health of your jaw joints. We then move to the lips and stretch them looking and for any bumps or discolorations. We check the palate, throat, cheeks, tongue, and the floor of the mouth.

It’s rare that we find anything while doing our screenings, but if we do find something that just doesn’t look right, we usually send you to an oral surgeon for a second opinion. If the surgeon agrees that things seem wrong, he or she may take a biopsy and send it to a lab to be examined under the microscope.