dentist at work on woman patient in office

The purpose of cancer screenings is to check for signs of cancer before any symptoms become evident. This allows the dentist to find potential cancer cells as early as possible when they are most treatable. While the tests can be used to scan for multiple types of cancer, there is no set or standard screening test for oral cancers.

The exam often includes looking for lesions in the mouth that may include areas of leukoplakia, or an abnormal patch of white cells, or erythroplakia, an abnormal patch of red cells. While these patches do not necessarily mean cancer they can potentially become cancerous.

If lesions are found, procedures used to find oral or oropharyngeal cancer may include fluorescence staining or a brush biopsy.

If your dentist does a cancer screening, it does not mean that they are specifically concerned you may have cancer. It is simply a precautionary measure to cover all bases.