If you are a regular patient here at Margolian Dentistry, then you will almost certainly have recently had an oral cancer screening. We firmly believe in taking a preventative approach to oral care and which is why we thoroughly recommend six-monthly checkups and hygiene appointments for most people. During these appointments, we can screen your mouth thoroughly for signs of dental disease such as tooth decay and gum disease, but you might not have realized we also carry out oral cancer screenings.
What Is an Oral Cancer Screening?
Dentists in Whitby are trained to identify the first signs of any changes to the soft tissues in your mouth, for example, changes to your cheeks, lips, tongue, and the roof and floor of your mouth. The examination is conducted visually and is entirely painless. Although it is possible to examine oral tissues with the naked eye, we also use a small handheld device called a VELscope, and which uses advanced cancer screening technology. While it is possible to spot lesions or changes to your mouth tissues, the device helps to make identifying them easier.
It works by emitting a blue light that is completely harmless, but which causes the oral tissues to fluoresce. Healthy tissues will fluoresce differently compared with tissues that are showing signs of disease. These diseases include bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, as well as cancerous lesions. This handheld device doesn’t replace our visual examination but is merely another tool that can help us identify any changes more easily. It doesn’t diagnose cancer but does allow us to see abnormalities more clearly.
Why Is an Oral Cancer Screening Important?
Most likely, your Oshawa dentist is the only person who will regularly examine the inside of your mouth and who is highly trained to do so. Unfortunately, one of the problems with oral cancer is that frequently it is detected at a later stage, by which time treatment is lengthier and more invasive and may be less successful. By screening you regularly for oral cancer, it’s possible to detect any tiny lesions at an earlier stage and at which time they are more easily treated using less aggressive procedures, and treatment will most likely be more successful. It’s a quick examination that could save your life.
What Are the Signs of Oral Cancer?
The signs and symptoms of oral cancer are varied. It may cause colour changes to tissues such as white patches or dark red patches. The texture of mouth tissues can also change, so they feel lumpy or rougher to touch. Other symptoms include unexplained numbness or bleeding in the mouth or having a sore patch that doesn’t heal. It can cause changes to taste and create difficulties in swallowing.
It’s not known why some people develop this disease while others don’t, but risk factors include using tobacco products such as cigarettes or chewing tobacco, or cigars. Heavy alcohol consumption is another risk factor and especially when combined with smoking. Exposure to the sun and especially at a young age can influence risk. A poor diet may increase susceptibility, and it can be down to genetics and gender because more men develop oral cancer than women. Leukoplakia, a condition that causes white, thick patches in the mouth can be a precursor of this disease. It’s important to remember that around a quarter of people diagnosed with oral cancer have no known risk factors.
If you are ever concerned about any changes to the inside of your mouth, contact your Ajax dentist immediately. The changes are most likely due to another condition other than oral cancer, but it’s not worth taking the risk.