Your dentist may perform an oral exam during your routine dental visit to screen for oral cancer. Early detection means a greater chance for a cure. During an oral exam, your dentist looks for red or white patches, or mouth sores.
Many people have abnormal sores in their mouths that are usually noncancerous. An oral exam doesn’t determine if a sore is cancerous – so if your dentist finds an unusual sore, a biopsy may be necessary.
Patients with a high risk of oral cancer may be more likely to benefit from oral cancer screening. Factors that can increase the risk of oral cancer include:
- Tobacco use of any kind, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff, among others
- Heavy alcohol use
- Previous oral cancer diagnosis
Your dentist will know if oral cancer screening is appropriate for you. Also ask about ways you can reduce your risk of oral cancer, such as quitting smoking and not drinking alcohol.