Oral cancer screening

Oral cancer screening

Your dentist performs an examination of your mouth during a routine dental visit to screen for oral cancer. Your dentist may also use additional tests to aid in identifying areas of abnormal cells in your mouth. The goal with oral cancer screening is to identify cancer early, when there is a much greater chance for a cure.

Cancer is very well treated with fewer complications in early stages. Remember time is an essence here. Even if there is slight delay the prognosis rapidly goes from good to bad to worse.


Oral exam for oral cancer screening

During an oral exam, your dentist looks over the inside of your mouth to check for red or white patches or mouth sores. Using gloved hands, your dentist also feels the tissues in your mouth to check for lumps or other abnormalities.


Many people have abnormal sores in their mouths, with the great majority being noncancerous. An oral exam can’t determine which sores are cancerous and which are not. If your dentist finds an unusual sore, you may go through further testing to determine its cause. The only way to definitively determine whether you have oral cancer is to remove some abnormal cells and test them for cancer in a procedure called a biopsy.

The American Dental Association recommends all adults undergo periodic oral exams when they visit the dentist. The American Cancer Society recommends discussing oral cancer screening when you visit your dentist.