Oral Cancer Screenings

How Often Should You Get an Oral Cancer Screening?

January 1, 2024
Oral cancer is a severe disease, but catching it early dramatically improves treatment outcomes. So, how often should you visit your dentist for an oral cancer screening? Learn about oral cancer risks, screening recommendations, and what to expect at your appointment.

What Are the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

Certain lifestyle factors raise your risk of developing oral cancer, including:
  • Tobacco use - whether cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • HPV infection - this STD is linked to increased oral cancer rates
  • Sun exposure - especially to the lips, where squamous cell carcinoma occurs
  • Age older than 40 years old
If you fall under any of those categories, your dentist will likely recommend more frequent oral cancer screenings near me. Family history also plays a role.

At What Age Should Oral Cancer Screenings Begin?

Major health organizations like the American Dental Association (ADA) say oral cancer screenings should start at age 21. Screenings should then continue regularly throughout adulthood. Those in high-risk groups, like heavy smokers or drinkers, may need to start even earlier, sometimes as young as age 18. Talk to your dentist 91767 about an individualized timeline based on your risk factors and lifestyle.

How Often Do Dentists Recommend Oral Cancer Screenings?

Professional organizations like the ADA advise getting an oral cancer screening during your routine dental visit every 1-2 years for the average adult with no significant risk factors. If anything suspicious comes up in between scheduled exams, call your dental office near me right away to take another look. High-risk patients need more frequent monitoring, often every 4-6 months. So, if you smoke, drink heavily, or have HPV or other oral cancer risk factors, talk with your dentist in Pomona about a tailored screening timeline to catch problems early.

Do Oral Cancer Screenings Hurt or Have Side Effects?

The good news is oral cancer screenings are fast, straightforward exams that shouldn't cause discomfort. There are no lasting side effects either. Your dentist will first visually inspect your whole mouth, peering closely for abnormalities. Then, they'll lightly palpate areas like the throat, tongue, cheeks, and lymph nodes for signs of swelling or lumps. They may gently scrape a cell sample or order imaging scans if anything looks concerning. But otherwise, the checkup is quick and painless.

What Happens During the Appointment?

At your oral cancer screening appointment, you can expect your dentist to:
  • Ask about any mouth symptoms like pain, bleeding, or swelling
  • Feel for lumps in the neck to check lymph nodes
  • Examine the lips, gums, inner cheeks, roof of the mouth, tongue, and throat
  • Check for red or white patches and mouth sores
  • Note your use of tobacco, alcohol, or other oral cancer risk factors
The visual exam only takes a few minutes. The dentist may collect cell samples for biopsy or order scans if they spot anything suspicious. Otherwise, you schedule your next routine oral cancer screening at the dental clinic near me.

Protect Your Oral Health with Regular Screenings

Oral cancer screenings are a quick and crucial part of dental checkups. They help diagnose problems early when treatment is most effective. Talk to your dentist about getting screened every 1-2 years if your risk is low or every 4-6 months if you have major risk factors. Catching oral cancer in an early stage makes a huge difference, so don't skip these critical exams! Schedule your next visit to Pomona Dental Practice. Our skilled dentists provide gentle, high-quality care to protect your smile.