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What happens during an oral cancer screening at the dentist.

An oral cancer screening is a routine part of a dental checkup designed to detect early signs of cancer or precancerous conditions in your mouth. Here’s what you can expect during the screening:

Visual Examination

  1. Mouth Inspection: The dentist will look inside your mouth using a light and a mirror to check for any abnormalities. They will examine your lips, gums, the roof and floor of your mouth, the inside of your cheeks, and the back of your throat.
  2. Tongue and Throat Check: The dentist will ask you to stick out your tongue and say "ahh" to check the back of your throat. They will also use a piece of gauze to hold your tongue and inspect the sides and underneath.
  3. Color and Texture: They will look for any changes in color, such as red or white patches, and texture changes, like lumps, bumps, or rough spots.

Physical Examination

  1. Palpation: The dentist will feel the tissues in your mouth, lips, and neck to check for any lumps or abnormalities. They may press down on your jaw, under your chin, and the sides of your neck to feel for swollen lymph nodes or other unusual growths.
  2. Movement Check: You may be asked to move your tongue in different directions to help the dentist see areas that are otherwise hidden.

Additional Tools and Tests

  1. Special Lights: Some dentists use special lights or dyes to highlight abnormal tissues. For example, a fluorescent light may make healthy tissue appear dark and abnormal tissue appear white.
  2. Dye Application: In some cases, a dye (usually a blue dye) might be used. You’ll rinse your mouth with it, and any areas that absorb the dye and turn blue may indicate abnormal cells.

What Happens Next?

  • Follow-Up: If the dentist finds any suspicious areas, they may recommend a follow-up visit or refer you to a specialist for further evaluation.
  • Biopsy: If an area looks particularly concerning, a biopsy may be recommended. This involves taking a small sample of tissue for further examination in a lab.

Regular oral cancer screenings are important as they can help detect cancer early when it is most treatable. If you have any concerns or notice unusual changes in your mouth, be sure to mention them to your dentist.

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