Screenings are a great way to help detect cancer when it is at early stages & is more treatable. It can be intimidating going into a screening, so here are some things to expect when going to your first oral cancer screening at the dentist.

It’s Easy & Pain Free

There isn’t much to an oral exam from a patient perspective. Unlike other screenings, you don’t need to do any special preparation such as fasting. Having a freshly brushed mouth isn’t a bad idea, though.
When you come in, your dentist will examine your mouth tactically. With gloved hands, they will feel for any abnormalities in the fleshy parts of your mouth & look for any red or white inflamed areas. No special tools are needed & you won’t have to worry about any drills or needles. Your dentist may then go over the exterior of your throat to check for any lumps.
Certain practices may also incorporate the use of dyes or light to help try to spot abnormalities in the mouth, but, according to the Mayo Clinic, these methods are not foolproof & will not register all types or stages of cancer. Once your dentist is done, they will go over anything that they feel may warrant further testing.

More Testing May Be Needed

If your dentist feels the need for an additional exam or test, there’s no need to panic. Initial oral cancer screenings do not use any testing that can conclusively state whether or not you have cancer. Even if your dentist found a sore they found abnormal, it very well could be benign.
In order to help ensure an abnormality isn’t just an odd sore, your dentist will likely first have you come back in a few weeks for another exam like the one you just had. Most normal injuries the mouth sustains heal quickly & should be fine by the next appointment.
Further examination may also require a tissue sample to be collected so cells can be more thoroughly examined. This kind of scraping, called a biopsy, is still painless in most cases & many doctors can perform them in-house. The time it takes to hear results from a biopsy can vary depending on the lab it is being sent to, but your dentist should be able to give you an approximation.

An Affordable Path

Screenings are a great way to save money, too. On top of the peace of mind you get, many insurance plans cover preventive care as it can reduce the chances of more expensive treatment down the road. Even if your plan doesn’t cover screenings, many dentists offer them at low costs, have special days where screenings are free & offer a reduced rate for patients on their in-house dental plan. So no matter what your financial situation is, you don’t have to sacrifice staying on top of your oral health. Call your dentist today to see if you are a candidate for an oral cancer screening & they’ll be happy to schedule an appointment that works for you!

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