How Often Do You Need an Oral Cancer Screening?

Oral Cancer Screening Coral Gables, FL

An oral cancer screening, along with practicing proper oral hygiene, can help protect you from developing certain types of mouth cancer. This type of cancer is relatively common, and according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, affects over 50,000 people a year. The same report notes that men are more commonly diagnosed than women. Individuals considering a screening likely want to know what to expect, how the screening works and how often to schedule such a screening. 

About oral cancer

Oral cancer can occur almost anywhere inside or around the mouth. Early stages of this type of cancer may be asymptomatic, so a dentist may look in several areas during the screening: 

  • The insides of the lips 
  • The roof of the mouth 
  • Both sides of the tongue 
  • The insides of both cheeks 

A dentist may perform additional screenings on patients who have high risk factors for this type of cancer, including tobacco use, a past history of cancer and daily alcohol usage. There may also be a genetic component, as some inherited blood diseases, like anemia, may increase the risk of oral cancer and its symptoms. 

Oral cancer symptoms

Some forms of mouth cancer may be symptomatic, so it is important that at-risk individuals learn to spot the signs of a possible problem. Symptoms include canker sores or other mouth lesions that do not heal or heal and then return, discoloration on the gums or tongue and pain while chewing and swallowing. Individuals who experience these symptoms may want to have a screening as soon as possible.

Screening frequency

Those with low risk factors for cancer can visit a dentist once a year and have an oral cancer screening to ensure its absence. However, individuals with a higher risk may want to schedule a visit up to three times a year. Because risk can vary from person to person, a dentist can explain patients’ risk factors and their approximate odds of getting oral cancer. 

What to expect

Individuals who visit a dentist for a basic checkup may be told a cancer screening will be part of the appointment. This exam only takes a few moments and does not usually require any type of machinery or dental tools. During the preliminary exam, the dentist will use his or her fingers to feel for unusual lumps or growths around the jaw, If any abnormalities are found, a more in-depth test may be ordered. 

A secondary screening may include the use of a nontoxic blue dye that patients rinse with beforehand. Once the dye is set, it highlights any abnormal cells that might not be visible otherwise. If such cells are found, the dentist or a head and neck doctor may take a biopsy to determine if the sample is malignant. Affected individuals typically then receive specific instructions from that doctor about having the tumors or abnormal cells removed. 


An oral cancer screening can prevent the spread of malignant cells when caught early. This screening, along with regular oral care, can help people remain healthy while protecting their smiles. 

Are you considering an oral cancer screening in the Coral Gables area? Get more information at

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