What to Expect During Your Oral Cancer Screening

What to Expect During Your Oral Cancer Screening

Every adult can benefit from having routine oral cancer screenings. This is especially true of people who use tobacco products, consume alcohol, or have previously had an oral cancer diagnosis. However, oral cancer can potentially affect everyone, and isn’t always caused by tobacco or alcohol. Sun exposure, for instance, can cause oral cancer of the lip, while HPV infections can also lead to a diagnosis. Fortunately, oral cancer screenings are quick and painless—and they just might save your life.

Visual Exam

Your dentist will perform an external and intraoral visual exam. First, he or she will examine your face, neck, jaws, lips, and cheeks. Then, your dentist will carefully examine the oral cavity, checking all parts of the tongue, gums, insides of the cheeks, and the roof and floor of your mouth. While performing this visual exam, your dentist will be on the lookout for any of the following irregularities:

  • Red or white patches
  • Lumps
  • An area of thickened or hardened tissue
  • Unusual sores that bleed or refuse to heal
  • Tissue that appears rough or encrusted


A comprehensive oral exam also includes palpation. In other words, your dentist will use gloved hands to carefully feel your neck, jaws, and other areas. This allows him or her to more accurately check for irregularities that can be revealed through touch, such as sores and thickened or hardened tissues. On the neck and along the jawline, your dentist will feel for unusual lumps.

The office of John R. Carson, DDS is a full-service provider of preventive dentistry services. We routinely perform oral cancer screenings as part of our comprehensive oral examinations. New and current patients can request an appointment at our Tucson dental office by calling (520) 514-7203.