Where Can You Get an Oral Cancer Screening? Dentist or Doctor?

Where Can You Get an Oral Cancer Screening? Dentist or Doctor?

March 1, 2024

Oral cancer can sneak up without obvious symptoms. That’s why regular oral cancer screenings are crucial for catching this disease in its early stages. But do you visit your general dentist or primary care doctor for these lifesaving exams?

Both dentists and doctors play key roles in oral cancer prevention and detection. Read on to learn when each medical provider should check your mouth for signs of abnormalities.

What are the common signs of oral cancer to look out for?

Watch for these key symptoms that may indicate oral cancer:

  • Persistent ulcers or sore spots in the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • White, red, or speckled patches in the mouth
  • Numbness or pain in the mouth that persists
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Swelling or lumps in the mouth
  • Loose teeth without a clear cause

Bring any bothersome or suspicious mouth issues to your dentist AND doctor’s attention immediately. Early oral cancer detection makes treatment more effective.

Do dentists perform thorough oral cancer screenings?

A comprehensive oral cancer screening in San Clemente, CA, should be part of your routine dental visits. Your dentist will carefully examine all soft tissues of the mouth, including cheeks’ interior, gums, tongue, and floor and roof of the mouth. They will check for any abnormalities and feel for lumps.

The dentist may also order oral cancer screening tests like ViziLite or Velscope. These use special lights and technologies to detect cancerous lesions. If anything looks suspicious, your dentist can perform a biopsy to take a sample and test it for cancer.

When should your primary doctor examine your mouth?

Your primary care physician can perform basic visual screenings for oral cancer during annual checkups. However, given all the complex structures in the mouth, your dentist in San Clemente does more specialized exams.

However, make sure to tell your doctor right away if you notice potential oral cancer symptoms. If required, your doctor will recommend you to visit an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist for advanced evaluation. ENTs have special expertise in cancers of the head and neck region.

What specialist conducts biopsies for abnormal mouth tissue?

If your dentist spots any concerning lesions or growths in your mouth, they will refer you to an oral surgeon to perform a biopsy. Oral surgeons have advanced training in surgery of the mouth and jaws.

The oral surgeon will numb the area before using a scalpel or punch tool to remove a tiny tissue sample. This sample gets sent to a lab for analysis to determine if abnormal cells are present.

What oral cancer tests may ENT doctors order?

After inspecting your mouth, your ENT doctor may order additional tests like:

  • Endoscopy – A lighted instrument examines the throat and larynx.
  • CT or MRI scans – These cross-sectional imaging tests provide detailed views of oral tissues.
  • PET scan – This scan detects cancerous areas of metabolic activity.

The ENT will discuss options if the biopsy confirms oral cancer. Early treatment provides the best prognosis.

Where can you turn if you lack dental and medical insurance?

Don’t let the costs deter you from oral cancer screening. If uninsured, look into free or reduced-cost dental clinics in your area. There are organizations like the Dental Lifeline Network or UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation that can assist you for better access to care.

Regular oral cancer screenings near you help detect issues early when outcomes are better. Contact Seascape Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry to schedule your screening at your next 6-month checkup. Don’t wait – a screening could make all the difference.