Oral Cancer Screening

Oral Cancer Screening


The ultimate goal of conducting oral cancer screening is to identify mouth cancer early, when there is a greater chance for a cure. Most dentists perform an examination of your mouthduring a routine dental visit to screen for oral cancer.

An oral cancer screening is a simple painless procedure carried out to rule out any chances of presence of cancerous changes. It is conducted as a part of the routine comprehensive oral examination and only takes a few minutes. The dentist or hygienist uses a laser light that passes through the mucosa or soft tissue and indicates those areas that may have developed some unusual changes.

A small sample of the doubtful areas is sent to the laboratory for biopsy. In case the review reveals the presence of cancer in that area, an excision of the cancerous part is performed.

As part of the routine check-up or an initial comprehensive examination, your dentist will perform an oral exam. An oral cancer exam aims at identifying and managing diseases that fall in and around the oral region.

Our mouth has a thin soft lining called mucosa which is generally smooth and pink in color. When the texture or the color begins to show changes, the mucosa is said to be in a pathologic (diseased) state. These changes can amount to something mild and painful like a traumatic ulcer or something severe and painless like oral cancer. Hence, a regular check-up is of immense value as your dentist will identify any alarming condition and inform you immediately.

Here are some of common conditions:

Geographic Tongue – Also known as Benign Migratory Glossitis or Erythema Migrans, is a condition where the tongue surface gives a map-like appearance. This is because of the missing papillae in various areas which appear like small bumps. These patches of missing papillae may appear like an unsightly rash at times and can stay for few weeks to months. One may be experience increased sensitivity on those areas.

Median Palatal Cyst – This cyst is a developmental cyst and is basically a fluid filled sac.  As the name suggests, it is found generally in the middle of the palate and hence, can pose some discomfort due to the position.

Hairy Tongue – The tongue appears black and hairy. The reason for hairy tongue is bacterial overgrowth or a fungal infection caused due to either poor oral hygiene or due to chronic or extensive antibiotic usage. Those who undergo radiation treatments to the head or neck and those who are HIV positive or are involved in intravenous drug abuse also have the problem of hairy tongue.

Treatment of Pathological Diseases


In most of the cases, the pathological changes developed in the oral region can cause discomfort and disfigurement, but are not life threatening. However, the incidence of oral cancer is quite high especially among men and the chances of survival are around 80% if the diagnosis is made immediately.

Oral cancer is a collective term used to define cancer that affects oral parts like tongue, inner cheek area or the jaw region. Any mucosal change that appears slightly suspicious needs to be taken into serious consideration. A small part of the affected area needs to be sent to the laboratory for biopsy to get an in-depth understanding of the nature of the problem. If the problem is not that serious these are the other ways of managing them-

  • Antibiotics – These drugs fight against the disease-causing bacteria thereby, eliminating infection and healing the mucosa from swelling and soreness.
  • Diluted Hydrogen Peroxide – To address the problem of poor oral hygiene and bad breath, your dentist may suggest you to use a diluted hydrogen peroxide mouthwash. Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria through its oxidizing action and hence, improves oral hygiene.
  • Oral Surgery – If oral examination reveals the presence of growths that are abnormal but not cancerous, your dentist may decide to take them off surgically. The removal will surely cure any associated breathing or speech problem and enhance the comfort of the patient.