Oral Cancer Screenings Specialist

Northwest Dental

General Dentists located in Everett, WA & Bellingham, WA

Close to 50,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer in 2018. One of the most dangerous aspects of oral cancer is that the early symptoms may go unnoticed. Regular dental checkups provided at Northwest Dental include oral cancer screenings. Book an appointment at one of the Washington locations of Northwest Dental -- Bellingham, Burlington, Arlington, Everett, or Oak Harbor -- to make sure you don’t have any signs of oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Screenings Q & A

Who is at risk for developing oral cancer?

Like many illnesses, some people have a higher risk of developing oral cancer than others. Some of the main risk factors for oral cancer are:

  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol consumption
  • A past history of oral cancer
  • Frequent exposure to the sun
  • Exposure to human papillomavirus, especially HPV16
  • Being over age 40

Some experts believe that age is less of a risk factor alone and that chemical factors such as alcohol and tobacco use are cumulative. As the dangers of smoking have become more well-known, incidences of oral cancer associated with tobacco use have declined.

However, more young people are being diagnosed, and researchers think it’s because of HPV16. The area of the mouth affected also seems to be changing. More incidences of oral cancer in the back of the mouth than in the front are being reported than in the past.

What should I expect during an oral cancer screening?

When your Northwest Dental dentist conducts an oral cancer screening, they inspect all parts of your lips, gums, tongue, the insides of your cheeks, the roof of your mouth, and the back of your throat.

Although the exam is short, usually less than five minutes, the dentist may put one or more fingers in your mouth and feel under your jaw to look for lumps, spots, or anything unusual.

In some cases, the dentist will ask you to rinse your mouth with a dye that any cancer cells absorb and become visible.

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

Although oral cancer is often not detected in its earliest stages, there are some signs and symptoms to watch out for:

  • An irritated spot or sore that doesn’t heal or go away
  • Red or white patches
  • Numbness, tenderness, or pain on your lips or in your mouth
  • A lump or thick area
  • A crusty or rough area
  • Problems chewing, speaking, or swallowing
  • A change in how your teeth feel when your mouth is closed
  • Hoarseness or a change in your voice

If you have any of these symptoms, and particularly if they last two weeks or more, book an appointment at Northwest Dental.