Every year there are more than 40,000 people diagnosed with oral cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Out of which over 10,000 die of the disease annually. However, early diagnosis can help curb the spread through oral cancer exams.  

The family dentist in Denver guides patients towards signs and symptoms to look out for, and aids in early diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer.

Oral cancer is a pathologic process

Oral cancer is the most common form of head and neck cancer.  It usually begins as an asymptotic stage when the cancer signs may not be visible. The most common type of oral cancer is malignant squamous cell carcinoma. 

There are many different places in the oral cavity in which oral cancers commonly occur, such as:

  • Lips
  • Floor and roof of your mouth
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • Salivary glands
  • Oropharynx (throat)
  • Face 
  • Cheek lining 

Importance of oral cancer exam

Oral cancer is the most prevalent cancer of the head and neck globally. Early detection of oral cancer is crucial since it can greatly reduce the fatality rates. Oral cancer exam or screening is the best tool available for early diagnosis and treatment. 

About 75% of people develop oral cancer due to the following habits:

  • Smoking 
  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Spending a lot of time in the sun without sun protection

A family history and human papillomavirus can also increase the likelihood of oral cancer.

Signs to look out for that indicate oral cancer

During an oral cancer exam, your dentist will evaluate the oral and maxillofacial areas for signs of any pathologic changes. 

These include:

  • Red patches on the floor of your mouth that fail to heal. 
  • Sores that heal slowly, and bleed easily 
  • Hardened white or gray, raised lesions inside your mouth (leukoplakia)
  • Presence of sore lumps or thickenings in your mouth or throat

Oral cancer diagnosis includes the following

Your dentist may use a combination of oral cancer exam methods that include the following:

Visual exam 

This is a painless screening method to look out for lesions in your mouth and throat. 


Your dentist will use digital (finger) pressure to carefully feel any lumps or bumps around your face, jaw, and neck. 

Screening laser

Lasers can effectively highlight pathologic changes since they can look below the surface for abnormal signs and lesions that are not visible through the naked eye. 


A biopsy is a procedure that involves the removal of any abnormal tissue that is studied under a microscope to identify the precise stage and grade of the oral lesion. 


Regular annual oral cancer screening is important since it aids in early detection. However, when signs are identified, treatment includes excision, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. 


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