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Oral Cancer Screening: Everything You Need To Know

June 30, 2023

What Is Oral Cancer Screening?

An oral cancer screening is a thorough examination conducted by our professional dentists to detect early signs of oral cancer (also known as mouth cancer). It is one of the most common cancers in the world with Australia registering over 900 new cases every year. 

Oral cancer screening involves a visual inspection of your:

  • Mouth
  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • Cheek lining
  • Tonsils
  • And other oral tissues with any abnormalities or suspicious lesions. 

Why Are Oral Cancer Screenings So Important?

Oral cancer screening is important for several reasons:

Early Detection

Oral cancer screenings play a vital role in detecting any signs of oral cancer at an early stage. By detecting it in the initial stages, it will greatly increase the chance of successful treatment and recovery.

High-Risk Factors

Some individuals have a high risk of developing oral cancers due to factors like tobacco and alcohol use, family history, or a weakened immune system. Regular screenings are particularly vital and helpful for those with high risk.

Reduces The Risk Of Oral Cancer Developing 

During an oral cancer screening, our dentists can educate you about the risk factors and lifestyle choices that may increase your chances of developing oral cancer. We can also provide you guidance on how to reduce these risks and maintain good oral health.

Promotes Overall Health

Examination of your entire mouth, teeth, and gums helps to identify other oral health issues like gum disease, tooth decay, or infections. Suitable treatment options can then be recommended to address them to keep your oral health in great condition. 


Regular screenings are a cost-effective way to ensure early detection and timely intervention if needed.

Symptoms Of Oral Cancer

Here are some common symptoms of oral cancer that you should be aware of:

  • Persistent mouth sores that won’t heal
  • Red or white patches on the gums, tongue, tonsils, and lining of your mouth
  • Persistent sore throat or hoarseness 
  • Swelling or lumps in the mouth, lips, or throat area
  • Bleeding or numbness in the mouth
  • Unexplained weight loss

Remember, experiencing one or more of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have oral cancer as it can also be caused by other health conditions. However, if you notice any of these signs persisting for more than 2 weeks or have concerns, it is best to seek medical advice.

When you come in for your next dental checkup at Melton Dental, we can also assess your mouth for any suspicious symptoms, and make a referral if needed. 

How Does An Oral Cancer Screening Work?

There is no prior preparation needed for an oral cancer screening. The screening is generally performed as part of your routine dental visits and will usually take around 5-10 minutes.

Here’s what you can expect:

Visual Exam

During the visual examination, our experienced dentists will thoroughly examine your mouth, lips, gums, tongue, and other oral tissues for any visible signs of abnormalities. We will look for issues with color, texture, and shape that may indicate oral cancer.


Palpation involves using gloved hands to feel for any unusual lumps, masses, or irregularities in the oral cavity and jaw. Our professional dentists may gently press at different areas to check for abnormalities or tenderness.

Our dentists at Melton Dental are highly trained to perform comprehensive oral examinations and can determine the most appropriate screening techniques for each individual, or make a referral as and when needed.

How To Reduce The Risk Of Oral Cancer 

Reducing the risk of oral cancer involves adopting certain lifestyle choices and maintaining good oral hygiene. Here are some things you can do to lower your risk:

  • Avoid tobacco products – Tobacco use is a well-known risk factor, including smoking cigarettes and using smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco. 
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption – Excessive alcohol consumption can be another significant risk. Try to quit or limit your alcohol intake.
  • Protect lips from sun exposure – Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays can increase the risk of lip cancer. Use a balm or lipstick with SPF protection, especially during peak sun hours.
  • Follow a healthy diet – Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your meals to benefit from their antioxidants and other protective nutrients.
  • Attend regular checkups – Schedule your regular checkups with one of our experienced dentists. These assessments help detect any early signs or abnormalities so that they can be treated sooner. 

Keep your smile healthy and stay on top of your oral health! Schedule your next checkup at Melton Dental today.