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Due to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic and current restrictions imposed by Governor Inslee and the State of Washington Department of Health, our office will be temporarily closed for all but emergency dental care. This closure is expected to last until May 18th, at which time we expect to resume regular business hours and all patient care. If you are experiencing a dental emergency requiring immediate attention, you may contact Dr. Kay at (206) 915-8020. Thank you for your support and understanding during this challenging time.

Oral Cancer Screening

Red ribbon for bringing awareness to oral cancerOral cancer screening is the examination of the mouth to look for signs of oral cancer or precancerous conditions. The aim is to identify mouth cancer in its early stages so that there is a greater chance for successful treatment.

At Kevin Kay DDS Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Kevin Kay can perform a comprehensive oral checkup to screen for mouth cancer. He may also recommend a few additional steps to identify the cause of suspicious areas in your mouth.

Why is Oral Cancer Screening Done?

There is a widespread debate in the medical community about whether people without risk factors for oral cancers need to be screened for it. No single oral cancer screening has proven to save lives. Still, we may recommend an oral cancer screening or other tests based on your risk factors.
Some factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer are:
•  Heavy tobacco use, including cigarette smoking, chewing tobacco and using snuff.
•  Excess alcohol consumption.
•  Certain strains of human papillomavirus.
•  Excess exposure to the sun.
•  History of oral cancer.

We can counsel you on how to reduce your risk of oral cancer and whether an oral cancer screening is appropriate for you.

Oral Cancer Screening Procedure

Oral cancer screening may require various steps:

Visual Exam

We will start your oral assessment by visually examining your mouth. Before the screening, you may need to remove all your removable dental restorations, like dentures.

We may ask you to sit upright or lie down. First, we will look at your mouth for any unusual signs like bumps, strange patches of color, ulcers, or other abnormal tissue. We may use a small light to look inside your nose and mouth, and a tongue depressor to keep your tongue out of the way as we look at the back of your mouth. You may also be asked to swallow or make an “aahhh” sound so that we can examine your throat.

Physical Exam

After the visual exam, we will conduct a physical exam by feeling under your tongue, the skin of your cheeks, beneath your jaw, and under your chin for any hidden masses or presence of rigid tissues that are normally mobile. We may also touch a certain area in your mouth with a finger and ask you if you feel any discomfort.

Oral Cancer Screening Device

We may use some special devices during the oral cancer screening like a VELscope which uses a blue light to identify abnormal mouth tissues; Oral CDx, a brush that painlessly removes oral cells for testing; and an Orascoptic DK, which releases a mildly acidic mouth rinse to help visually examine oral tissues. Some special dyes are also used to assist in abnormal cell visibility.

Additional Tests to Check for Oral Cancer

If we notice suspicious tissues in your mouth, we may recommend follow-up visits to check if there is any change in the condition of the problem area or if the issue has been resolved. We may also suggest a biopsy, which is done by removing a sample of suspicious cells and sending them to a lab for testing. If we think the issue needs an in-depth look, we may recommend you to a doctor.

Note, however, that not all suspicious cells are cancerous or precancerous and that oral screening cannot identify all types of oral cancers.

The most important thing you can do is to be aware of the risk factors and try to reduce them. If you have a history of oral cancer, you are more likely to develop it again. If you are concerned for the health of your mouth, contact us at (425) 738-8476 today to schedule an oral cancer screening.