Oral Cancer Screening in Ontario, CA
You may not think of cancer as being part of your dental care, but we do. At Esparza Dentistry, we are committed to helping you achieve optimal oral health. Oral cancer screening plays a crucial role in the early detection and prevention of mouth cancer. At your appointment, we will examine your mouth, lips, face, and neck for signs of cancer.
Incorporating oral cancer screenings into your oral healthcare routine can bring you peace of mind and empower you to be proactive about your well-being.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Cancers are named based on where they originate, so oral cancer begins in the oral cavity or back of the throat. Oral cancer, also called mouth cancer, is a potentially life-threatening disease that impacts the gums, lips, mouth, or tongue. It is the most common head and neck cancer, affecting thousands of Americans annually. The National Cancer Institute estimates over 54,000 new oral cancer diagnoses will be made in 2023.
The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with oral cancer is 68%. As with other cancers, mouth cancer is more treatable when detected early. Unfortunately, oral cancer is often discovered late in its development: it begins as a small spot or sore that goes unnoticed until it has spread. Most mouth cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which tend to spread quickly.
Mouth Cancer Symptoms
Oral cancer can present in different ways, but common symptoms of mouth cancer include:
- A sore that does not heal
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or mouth lining
- A lump on the lips or in the mouth
- Atypical bleeding, pain, or numbness in the mouth
- Swelling of the neck or jaw
- Ear pain
- Pain while chewing or swallowing
- Change in color of the oral tissues
You may not feel any pain or symptoms until the cancer has advanced, which highlights the importance of routine screenings at Esparza Dentistry. At your appointment, we will thoroughly examine you for any signs of early-stage oral cancer and guide you with the next steps should we find anything out of the ordinary. Remember that just because we find something irregular does not mean you necessarily have cancer.
Who Is at Risk?
Oral cancer can affect anyone at any age, but it is more likely to develop after age 40. Though the average age of people diagnosed with oral cancer is 64, 20% of cases occur in people younger than 55. It is also twice as common in men than in women.
Other factors that increase a person’s risk for developing mouth cancer are:
- Excessive alcohol use
- Tobacco use of any kind
- Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection
- Significant sun exposure, which can cause cancer in the lips
- Family history of head and neck cancer
You don’t need to be at risk to receive an oral cancer screening. We conduct screenings for our patients as a precautionary measure. For patients over 20 years of age, we recommend an oral cancer screening once every three years. Patients at risk and those 40 years or older should be checked for signs of oral cancer every year.
What Is An Oral Cancer Screening?
These dental exams help us spot signs of mouth cancer, such as lesions and other abnormalities. If we detect anything concerning, we will refer you to an oncologist for diagnostic testing. Your dentists at Esparza Dentistry provide a first line of defense for oral cancer. Annual screenings at our office help oncologists make early diagnoses to improve treatment outcomes for those with oral cancer.
No special preparation is needed for your appointment, but if you have questions or concerns about oral cancer, you may want to write them down in advance. If you wear a removable dental appliance like dentures, we’ll ask you to remove it so that we can have a clear view of your mouth.
The Screening Procedure
During your screening, we will check your lip and cheek lining, the floor and roof of the mouth (the hard and soft palate), gums, lips, tongue, and tonsils. A comprehensive screening involves both a visual and physical examination.
Using a tongue depressor, light, and mirror, we will first examine the inside of your mouth for visible signs of mouth cancer, like red or white patches and sores. We may use special tools to help us see abnormalities as well. One of these is a blue dye that can help us identify lesions that could become cancerous. Another is an oral cancer screening light. After you rinse with a fluorescent mouthwash, we shine the light in your mouth to check if anything is out of the ordinary. This technique makes abnormal tissue appear white and healthy tissue appear dark.
For the physical part of the exam, we will feel the tissues in the mouth as well as your neck, face, and jaw. This tactile inspection helps us check for hard lumps and other irregularities.
While these screenings are very quick and easy, they can profoundly impact your health.
Screen at Home Between Appointments
You can be proactive at home by conducting a self-check for oral cancer symptoms. However, these should never replace your professional screenings at Esparza Dentistry. In between your screening appointments, we recommend performing monthly self-exams to check for changes. At-home self-screenings are especially useful if you are at risk for oral cancer. To perform a self-exam, you will need a mirror, a light, and clean hands.
Take the following steps:
- Look in the mirror and examine your face, jaw, and neck for any visible changes. Be sure to turn your head from side to side.
- Feel your jaw and neck for any lumps or asymmetries.
- Look at the inner lining of your lips and cheeks for sores, discoloration, and patches of red and white.
- Feel your lip and cheek lining for tenderness, lumps, or texture changes. Then, run your finger along the inside and outside of your gums.
- Look at the top, bottom, and sides of your tongue for swelling, discoloration, and sores.
- Lifting up your tongue, feel for swelling, lumps, or ulcers on the floor of your mouth.
- Tilt your head backward and inspect the roof of your mouth. Look for changes in color and ulcers.
If anything appears unusual, make a note and contact us right away.
Schedule Your Oral Cancer Screening at Esparza Dentistry
Discover the power of proactive healthcare at Esparza Dentistry. Our compassionate and knowledgeable team is dedicated to your oral health and overall well-being. When it comes to successfully treating cancer, early detection is imperative. We offer comprehensive oral cancer screenings to give you power over uncertainty. With a focus on patient care and state-of-the-art technology, we guarantee a comfortable and thorough screening process.
Your health is our priority. With three convenient offices in Ontario, Rialto, and Chino, we make it easy to build oral cancer screening into your dental care. Contact us today to schedule your oral cancer screening.