Ask Dr. S: What is oral cancer and why is a screening necessary?


Oral cancers can be growths or sores in the mouth or neck area that just won’t go away.  They can be anywhere on the lips, cheek, tongue, floor or roof of the mouth, in the hard or soft palate, sinuses, neck  or throat.  When a person visits the dentist, the dentist will not only check their teeth, but their entire mouth and oral health as well.  Part of that check is a screening for oral cancers.  Just like any cancer, when not diagnosed or treated early, oral cancers can be life threatening.

Some of the common symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Swelling, thickening, lumps, bumps or rough spots on the lips, gums or anywhere inside the mouth
  • Velvety feeling patches in the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth or persistent sores on the face, neck or mouth that bleed easily and don’t seem to heal within 2 weeks
  • Unexplained numbness, tenderness or pain in the face, mouth or neck area
  • Feeling like something is caught at the back of the throat or having a chronic sore throat
  • Difficulty moving the jaw and tongue, swallowing, chewing or speaking

At Shamblott Family Dentistry we complete an oral cancer screening as part of each regular dental exam.  Our dentists look and feel for any irregularities in the tissue in and around the mouth in addition to the signs listed above.  If any suspicious areas are found, a biopsy is often recommended.  A small sample of the tissue is taken and sent to a lab for analysis.  This is generally a simple and easy procedure.

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month.  Click here for more information about oral cancer.  Shamblott Family Dentistry recommends having an oral cancer screening at least twice a year as part of your regular dental exams.   Since oral cancer can affect anyone at any time in their life, we invite you to make an appointment with Shamblott Family Dentistry to complete a routine exam with oral cancer screening.  If you don’t come to Shamblott Family Dentistry, please see another dentist.  Early detection and treatment could save your life, or the life of someone you love.