Oral Cancer Screening

Linda Kay Nichols, DMD, PA -  - Cosmetic Dentist

Linda Kay Nichols, DMD, PA

Cosmetic Dentist & Family Dentist located in Albuquerque, NM

Oral cancer screenings can alert you to potentially serious health problems in their early stages when they’re most responsive to treatment. At her practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico, expert cosmetic dentist Linda Kay Nichols, DMD, PA, and her caring team regularly provide oral cancer screenings to people of all ages. If you use tobacco or don’t practice good oral hygiene, you’re especially at risk. To make an appointment, call the office or book online today.

Oral Cancer Screening Q & A

What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer, or mouth cancer, is a serious, life-threatening disease that causes your cells to divide abnormally and uncontrollably. Every year, more than 50,000 Americans receive an oral cancer diagnosis. 

Oral cancer can occur almost anywhere in or around your mouth, including:

  • The lips
  • The gums
  • Tongue
  • The inner lining of the cheeks
  • Under the tongue

Oral cancer can also develop on the roof of your mouth. 

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

Oral cancer affects everyone differently, and symptoms vary depending on the location and severity. However, telltale signs include:

  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • A white or yellow patch on your gums or tongue
  • Loose teeth
  • A lump or bump inside your mouth
  • Mouth pain
  • Ear pain

As oral cancer progresses, you might also have difficulty swallowing or experience pain while eating. 

When should I schedule an oral cancer screening?

Most oral sores and lesions heal on their own and respond well to over-the-counter painkillers. However, if your symptoms persist for more than two weeks or they get worse, make an appointment with Dr. Nichols right away. Infections like gum disease and cavities present similar symptoms, so your provider will conduct a thorough oral exam to pinpoint the source of your discomfort. 

What happens during an oral cancer screening?

Dr. Nichols begins your oral cancer screening by conducting an oral exam and asking you about your symptoms. If she finds any tumors, bumps, or suspicious lesions, she also takes a biopsy, or small tissue sample, and sends it to a laboratory for further testing. 

Depending on your symptoms, Dr. Nichols might also order X-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan to get a closer look at your jawbones, tooth roots, gums, and other oral structures. 

How often should I participate in an oral cancer screening?

If you’re a high-risk individual, meaning you have a family history of oral cancer, or you’re a heavy tobacco user, Dr. Nichols and her team may recommend you participate in an oral cancer screening once every six months. 

Even if you feel fine and don’t notice any concerning symptoms, it’s still important to take preventive actions toward your oral health. Oral cancer doesn’t always present obvious signs in its early stages. By detecting the problem early on, it’s much easier to treat.

To make your oral cancer screening appointment with Dr. Nichols, call the office or book online today.