Some patients may be at risk for oral cancer. If you smoke, drink alcohol, are exposed to a lot of sunlight, or have been previously diagnosed with oral cancer, your risk levels are higher for developing it. We screen patients during routine exams for signs of cancer and if any are found, we take additional steps to determine what form of treatment may be necessary.

Risk Factors

Some people are more at risk for oral cancer than others. Those who use any sort of tobacco, whether cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco, those who drink a lot of alcohol, and even those with a history of long exposure to sunlight. Anyone who has previously been diagnosed with oral cancer is also at risk for a relapse.


We screen for oral cancer during a routine exam by examining the inside of your mouth, as well as checking your jaw and neck. We’ll feel along the underside of your jawline and on the sides of your neck looking for any irregularities. We also examine the sides of your tongue as well as the roof and floor of your mouth. As with all other types of cancer, early detection is key to treatment. We look for any signs of cancer or precancerous conditions. If anything is detected, we may use more advanced technology to test any abnormal cells and determine their malignance.

Additional Testing

If you wear dentures, you may be asked to remove them in order to provide a clearer view of your mouth. We’ll look for patches of red or white inside your mouth, as these are indicators of precancerous lesions. We may have you rinse your mouth with a blue dye, which can sometimes be absorbed by abnormal cells inside the mouth, making them significantly easier to locate. Shining a light into your mouth also helps reveal abnormal tissue, as it will appear to be white, standing out against the normally dark looking tissue in your mouth. If cancerous or precancerous signs are detected, a biopsy may be necessary to test the cells more extensively and determine if they are indeed cancerous.