With oral cancers, the earlier the detection the greater the prognosis. Oral cancer is known to spread fairly quickly, with only half of those diagnosed surviving more than 5 years. Your dentist should incorporate or request your permission to perform an oral cancer screening exam each year as part of the office protocol. If they don’t offer the exam to you or perform this task, you should request the exam or seek care elsewhere. The exam should include an overall evaluation of the face, lips, head and neck, with a thorough inspection of the inside of the upper and lower lips, the gums, the inside of the cheeks, the floor of the mouth, the tongue (the sides, top and underside), and the roof of the mouth. Newer types of oral cancer exams include tests that use fluorescent lights and special rinses and dyes (such as Toluidine Blue) to help dentists spot abnormal changes in the mucous membranes that line the inside of the mouth and throat.
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