There’s no need to panic on hearing the term “oral cancer screening” from us at WestLake Dental Care in Sterling. The fact that you’re getting screened isn’t an indication that you have cancer. Screening is all about testing healthy individuals. The overwhelming majority of the people we screen are free and have nothing to worry about.
Oral cancer affects about fifty thousand people in the United States each year. It’s not a scary number considering the population of people in the country is higher than three hundred and twenty million. Screening is a precaution and won’t cost you any additional fees.
Here at WestLake Dental Care, and most other offices, patients are screened when they come in for their regular exam and cleaning visits. We don’t just examine you to find dental caries, cavities, and cracked or odd-looking teeth. Examining to detect oral cancer is another one of our priorities.
In the past, oral cancer screenings were done by sight and touch – dentists would look for abnormal areas and feel for lumps in the mouth. While this method could effectively catch oral cancer in its early stages, technological advances in dentistry have allowed us to perform more in-depth screenings. Today, we use OralID, an oral cancer screening device.
OralID is a handheld oral examination device that uses an optically-based technology called “fluorescence technology.” The device uses a blue light that helps your dentist at WestLake Dental Care to find oral mucosal abnormalities like oral cancer and pre-cancer. Your dentist will need special eyewear to use with OralID. When the light from the OralID shines in the mouth, healthy tissue will fluoresce green while abnormal tissue will appear dark, alerting your dentist to a potential problem. Further testing, including a biopsy, may be needed to confirm the presence of oral cancer to get it treated.
While looking and feeling inside your oral cavity, we’re not searching blindly without a clue. The things we look for include masses (which may present as lumps), ulcers, and red or white patches. These patches are also known as erythroplasia and leukoplakia. When these patches are present, they’re commonly pre-cancerous. It’s always better to catch them as early as possible.
Not all ulcers are malignant. There are over half a dozen causes of benign oral ulcers. So, we never rush to the diagnosis of cancer.