HPV and Oral Cancer Screenings

oral cancer screeningsWhat is an oral cancer screening?
Cancer screening is an effective way to discover cancer at an early, more treatable level. At Bluffton Center for Dentistry, we provide our patients with three non-invasive salivary diagnostic tests for periodontal infections and HPV oral cancer:

  • DNA test for the cause of any periodontal infections
  • A test to determine whether or not you are at increased risk for periodontal infections, and
  • A test to establish increased risk of HPV-related oral cancers.

All of these tests are done chair side for your comfort, and we partner with OralDNA Labs to ensure you are getting the most reliable, definitive and cost-effective clinical test. We may go with a different and more inclusive test and lab through OraVital, if deemed necessary.

Why should I consider oral cancer screening?
People with a high risk of oral cancer may be more likely to benefit from oral cancer screening, though studies haven’t clearly proved that. Factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer include:

  • Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, among others
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Previous oral cancer diagnosis

Ask your dentist whether oral cancer screening is appropriate for you. Also ask about ways you can reduce your risk of oral cancer, such as quitting smoking and not drinking alcohol.

What should I expect from an oral screening?
Some dentists use special tests in addition to the oral exam to screen for oral cancer. It’s not clear if these tests offer any additional benefit over the oral exam. Special oral cancer screening tests include:

  • Rinsing your mouth with a dye before an exam. Your dentist may apply a blue dye to the inside of your mouth or ask you to rinse your mouth with a blue dye before your oral exam. Abnormal cells in your mouth may take up the dye and appear blue. The blue dye can’t distinguish between cancerous cells and noncancerous cells, so for people with an average risk of oral cancer this test isn’t as helpful. Some studies have concluded there could be some benefit for people with a very high risk of oral cancer, such as those who’ve already been diagnosed with one oral cancer and have a risk of a second cancer.
  • Shining a light in your mouth during an exam. Your dentist may use a special light to examine the inside of your mouth. The special light makes healthy tissue appear dark and makes abnormal tissue appear white. Some researchers have reported finding abnormal areas with the special light that weren’t discovered during a standard oral exam. But most studies haven’t found this to be the case in general. There’s little evidence that using a special light to examine the mouth has any advantage over a standard oral exam.