ZocdocAnswersWhat do mouth cancer screenings entail?

Question

What do mouth cancer screenings entail?

So, I am taking a trip to get my teeth cleaned and was offered a mouth cancer screening that I declined because I didn't know what would happen. Should I have this screening done? I brush my teeth regularly.

Answer

Screening of your mouth for cancer is something that should be done during your routine dental visits, especially if you engage in high risk behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or using other tobacco products. Additionally, if you have a family history of oral or head and neck cancer (or some other cancers, as well), it would be prudent to be checked at regular intervals. While I am not familiar with what, exactly, your dentist would have been offering, a normal screening will involve carefully visualizing and feeling the mucosal surface of your mouth and oral cavity. There are some new agents that are being researched that involve using a swish and spit solution that might be valuable for indicating certain areas of concern based on how the solution is absorbed. These would highlight areas of inflammation or cell changes, which are often hotspots for cancer development. These are not routinely used, however, and I would be interested to know what method your dentist is offering. As for the physical exam portion that I believe your dentist was recommending, that aspect of preventive dental care is definitely worthwhile. Please clarify with your dentist, and continue with excellent oral hygiene. Additionally, stop smoking and using other forms of tobacco if you are currently.

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