Screenings can be scary and sometimes stressful. Knowing what to expect can help you feel more relaxed. Let’s face it, you don’t need any extra stress on exam day. Here are some tips on what to expect at an oral cancer screening exam.

First Things First

The dentist that you use is the most important part of the process. When you have the exam performed, you need to know that you are good hands. This will eliminate most of the stress of the unknown. A screening is simply a step to ensure that your health is not in danger. In this case, it’s screening for oral cancer. Having a precautionary screening can save your life. It allows you to be pro-active and to handle any issues before they become serious.

The Exam

During the exam itself, the tissues in the oral cavity and throat will be carefully examined. It is a quick exam which includes a visual evaluation. Anything that looks different from the past is considered something to further explore in more tests. This type of exam is important to have whenever you go in for a dentist visit. All dentists should examine your mouth for abnormalities during each exam. If you have a referral from another dentist or a doctor that has seen something that appears off, then you might need to have a specialist perform a more thorough examination.

Potential Follow-Up

By now, you can start feeling better about the whole process. The exam will allow the dentist to spot anything that needs further testing. In this case, he or she will then make recommendations and might schedule another procedure to follow up. The dentist might examine the neck and the face to see if anything looks or feels abnormal. If anything causes pain during this portion of the exam, it is important to say so. That information will be included in the evaluation, and could be an important indicator.

Tools You Might See

Some tools used for testing the tissues with various lights will be used in the mouth during the exam. You can rest assured that none of this causes any pain normally. You can relax and let the dentist do his or her exam knowing that you will be comfortable throughout the process. Tools will be used in the nose and the throat, so a bit of a gagging sensation can occur, but your dentist will often warn you before they approach this sensitive area. Just let your dentist know if you are prone to gagging. Most are really good at handling this. You are not the only person that experiences the feeling, and your dentist can help keep you comfortable.

Concluding the Physical Examination

The final procedure that you can expect at your exam is a light scraping of any tissues which might require further testing. It does not hurt at all unless you already have some sensitivity. Discuss any needs for pain control with your dentist before the exam. If discomfort or pain only happens with specific actions, then mention this as well, so the dentist can address the issue.


After the physical exam, your dentist will ask a few questions to make sure that a full picture is taken of your lifestyle. He or she will note your answer during that time. There is no need for alarm regarding any of it. If it is needed, you might be asked to return for a follow-up visit. This is normal to track your tissues over a period of time. Note that all smokers are always asked to return to track their oral health. Don’t worry if you are asked to come back. It is in your best interest, and is the best way to ensure that your oral health is protected.

For more information about oral cancer screenings, or to schedule an appointment, contact the office of Dr. Larry D. Molenda, D.D.S. located in San Marcos, TX.