Are You Being Screened?
It’s that time of year again…6 months can go by so quickly! Time to catch up with the hygienist and have your pearly whites cleaned, perhaps smile big for the x-ray machine, and even get your scorecard from the dentist to know how your teeth and mouth have fared since your last visit. So much of this seems like second nature, but did you ever think that amongst the casual formalities of visiting the dentist, that you may—or may not be— receiving something that could save your life? And, no, we’re not talking about the goody bag that saves you from having to actually buy floss from the store…as important as that may be, we’re talking really important, here…when was the last time you had an oral cancer screening?
Patients may receive oral cancer screenings as a part of every active maintenance examination. It’s not something that many dentists charge for—not everything’s about money, after all! More of a courtesy to patients, to show they care and to go above and beyond.
So, what exactly does an oral cancer screening entail? During the screening, the dentist will feel the patient’s neck to take note of any red flags in terms of swelling, bumps, you know, things that feel out of the ordinary. They also do a thorough visual examination inside the patient’s mouth, carefully watching for the same sorts of things. Panoramic x-rays (the one that goes all the way around your mouth, which we take usually every 3-5 years) are also a great oral cancer detection tool.
Okay, so you’re probably wondering if they ever actually find anything. The answer, of course, is yes. Unfortunately, of course, because it’s there, but fortunately because it may have been caught early this way! Depending on the situation, patients may have an in-house screening of the area, or may be referred for further evaluation. Whether it ends up being cancerous or not, peace of mind is definitely essential. Oral cancer is nasty, it spreads quickly, and unfortunately can be deadly.
Just think, your dentist may have been doing this all along (kudos and a big high five to them next time you’re in for a visit!), it didn’t cost you anything extra, clearly they care about you, and your peace of mind is in a blissful state of contentment.
But, what if they haven’t???