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Oral Cancer Screenings: Checking for Serious Dental Health Problems

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Dr. Andrew Glenn has helped countless patients in and around Lincoln with diverse dental care needs, including advanced dental care therapies and oral surgery for tooth extractions and jaw reconstruction. A number of patients have asked about issues related to oral cancers. We'd like to go over some basics about screenings and exams that can be performed so that you can better understand how your dental health needs can be met.

What should I do if I suspect I have a cancerous growth in my mouth?

In the event you think you may have oral cancer, you should seek counsel from your dentist. Your dentist may check for unusual spots or mouth sores, as well as any abnormal lumps, with the hope of identifying any cancerous cells or tumors as early as possible.

Unfortunately, if cancerous cells are found to be present in your mouth, there is a chance that these have spread to additional lymph nodes in your body. Detecting issues early improves chances of treating the problem before it spreads further.

Is there a single test that is totally effective at detecting oral cancer?

Unfortunately, no single test for oral cancer has been proven more effective than the rest. In fact, many doctors believe that no single test reduces your risk of dying of oral cancer. However, it is still best to seek counsel from your dentist to avoid any additional anxiety you may placed on yourself due to the unknown.

Types of Oral Examinations

Most dentists recommend scheduling an oral cancer screening during your regularly scheduled dental checkup. Although your dentist will be looking for the aforementioned sores or lumps, many of the lesions dentists find regularly in patients are non-cancerous.

To identify potentially cancerous lesions, your dentist may ask you to rinse your mouth with a dye prior to the formal oral exam. Lesions will take to the dye and appear blue in your mouth; however, as previously stated, this does not necessarily mean the lesions are cancerous. Additionally, your dentist may also attempt fluorescence staining to identify potentially cancerous cells, which puts these lesions under fluorescent light.

Another form of treatment is referred to as exfoliative cytology. This procedure requires your dentist to collect cells from your mouth by scraping your lip or affected area with a wooden stick. The potentially cancerous cells are then analyzed with a microscope to determine the extent of their risk to your oral health.

Take Mouth Sores Seriously as a Potential Warning Sign

Keep in mind that while there is no exam proven to completely detect cancerous cells, it is still unwise to ignore a mouth sore that does not heal on its own within two weeks. If this is the case, see your dentist as soon as possible for further advice and possible treatment.

How do I identify a cancerous sore then?

The only surefire way to identify oral cancer is through biopsy. However, since oral sores can be so prevalent, it’s impractical to have each one biopsied. As such, your dentist will likely only suggest a biopsy for any lesion that you have identified as not having healed on its own in 14 days or more. Even if a sore has not healed on its own, it does not necessarily mean it’s cancerous, as its life cycle could be elongated due to a number of non-cancerous variables.

Learn More About General Dental Health and Wellness Needs

If you would like more information about major dental health concerns and how we can help you, be sure to contact our cosmetic and restorative dental care center today. Dr. Glenn and the entire team here will be sure to provide careful screenings of oral cancers as well as diagnostics to identify other serious health issues.

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Lincoln Office

Open Today 7:00am-3:00pm All hours

3401 Plantation Dr Ste 100
Lincoln, NE 68516

Directions (402) 421-3401

My anxiety has been through the roof the past 3 weeks but I would have never imagined it could be so easy. Thank you Dr Glenn! He has made the whole experience amazing! If you are looking for a knowledgable, caring and talented surgeon, look no further! Dr. Andrew Glenn is awesome! I have never been a fan of the dentist's office!!!
Wanda Moses
June 2016

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