What is A Dental Head and Neck Exam?
A dental head and neck exam is an examination performed by your dentist every six months. It checks the structure of your head, jaw, and neck. The exam includes checking your bones, organs, tissues, and other structures for any signs of oral cancer.
How Does Your Dentist Perform a Head and Neck Exam?
The head and neck exam involves two parts. One part is the external examination where your dentist checks your skin, eyes, bone structure, lymph nodes, and glands, around your head and neck. She will also observe your lips. Typically during this part of the exam, your dentist gently palpates around the structures with her fingers while also observing visual signs.
The other part of the exam is the internal portion. During this part, your dentist will examine the inside of your mouth. She will gently pull your lips away from your teeth to examine the inside of your lips and your gums. Then she will look at the inside of your cheeks, the roof of your mouth, and the base of your mouth under your tongue. The exam will include a quick tongue depression to better see your tonsils and the top of your throat. She will continue by feeling around your gums and the bones holding your teeth. Finally, the exam will finish with an inspection of all surfaces of your tongue.
During both the external and internal portions of the exam, your dentist is looking for any abnormal color changes, structural abnormalities, lumps and lesions, or any other signs of cancer or other pathology.
Why Do I Need a Head and Neck Exam?
Head and neck exams are a routine way of screening for oral cancer and other pathologies. The goal is to catch any signs of oral cancer early so that further screening and/or treatment can start promptly. Like most cancers, patients have the best chance of beating oral cancer when it is detected in its early stages.
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