Oral and maxillofacial surgeons recommend that you take an oral cancer screening whenever you have your dental check-up.

One is at a higher risk for oral cancer if they are over forty, an alcohol or tobacco user or have a history of head or neck cancer. Frequent exposure to the sun is also a risk for lip cancer. Oral cancer is not limited to these groups. About 25 percent of people diagnosed do not drink or smoke. Unfortunately, many cases go undetected until the late stages of development.

How is oral cancer detected?

An oral cancer screening involves a visual assessment of your lips, tongue, and the inside of your mouth, including a check for red or white patches or unusual sores. The doctor may press the inside of your mouth to detect the presence of lumps and swellings, and your tongue may be gently pulled aside for an even better view. A special light or dye may be used to probe any suspect areas. If anything appears unusual, a biopsy can be done. A biopsy involves removal of a small piece of tissue for laboratory examination.

Early Detection is Key
Oral & Maxillofacial surgeons recommend that everyone do an oral cancer screening self-exam once per month. You are at a high risk for oral cancer if you smoke, drink, or use smokeless tobacco. The mouth is a region where changes are easily seen; oral cancer can be detected in early stages.

The things to look for on oral cancer exams:

  • Red patches are bad
  • White patches
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • Chronic sore throat
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
  • A lump or thickening of tissue

If you have any of these signs, see your oral & maxillofacial surgeon.

If the surgeon agrees that something looks suspicious, a biopsy may be recommended. This procedure involves removal of a piece of suspicious tissue. The biopsy is then sent to the pathology laboratory for accurate diagnosis.

Other contributing factors for oral cancer other than tobacco products and alcohol include poor oral hygiene, irritation by ill-fitting dentures and rough surfaces on teeth, poor nutrition and combinations of these factors.