Some dental professionals do a cursory screening; some do a very thorough one. There is no standard or required level of quality, except one: an oral cancer screening should be performed at every dental check-up.
I spoke with a dentist (about 50 years old) who told me she never learned how to perform an oral cancer screening in dental school so she doesn’t feel competent. If she sees anything, she simply refers. How is she supposed to see something if she isn’t looking at the back lateral borders of the tongue, under the tongue, at the back of the throat, and feeling for lumps in the floor of the mouth, the cheeks, lips, and palate?
At my presentations, most dental professionals expect me to ask if they perform oral cancer screenings on all their patients. Instead, I ask, “Do you get an oral cancer screening for yourself?” They are taken by surprise. When I ask for a show of hands, it’s often less than 50%. You would think if they don’t think it’s important for themselves, how can they believe its important for patients? I would bet they make their patients and their families a priority and put themselves at the bottom of the list. What should be #1 on your priority list? You. As they say on airplanes, put your mask on first, then assist the person beside you.
Next time you have a dental checkup, just after the oral cancer screening (which hopefully they told you what they are doing and looking for), ask, ‘Doctor, when was the last time you had a screening for yourself?’