Skip Navigation This page features a timed image rotator. If you would like to disable it, press enter now. Skip to Footer Links
Your Oral Health

What to Expect from an Oral Cancer Exam

This quick and easy exam, performed at your regular dental checkup, can provide you with lasting peace of mind. Also, learn some of the warning signs of oral cancer and the symptoms to watch for.

The Oral Cancer Exam

An oral cancer exam is painless and quick; it takes only a few minutes. Your regular dental checkup is an excellent opportunity to have the exam.  

Here’s what to expect during your regular checkup:

  • If you have dentures or partials, you will be asked to remove them.
  • Your dentist will inspect your face, neck, lips, and mouth to look for signs of cancer.
  • With both hands, he or she will feel the area under your jaw and the side of your neck, checking for lumps that may suggest cancer.
  • He or she will then look at and feel the insides of your lips and cheeks to check for possible signs of cancer, such as red and/or white patches.
  • Your dentist will have you stick out your tongue so it can be checked for swelling or abnormal color or texture.
  • Using gauze, he or she will gently pull your tongue to one side, then the other to check the base of your tongue. The underside of your tongue also will be checked.
  • In addition, he or she will look at the roof and floor of your mouth, as well as the back of your throat.
  • Finally, your dentist will put one finger on the floor of your mouth, with the other hand under your chin, and gently press down to check for lumps or sensitivity.

We know that all cancers result from changes in genes which control cell behaviors. Cancer occurs when cells become abnormal and divide without control or order. Oral cancer usually occurs in people over the age of 45 but can develop at any age. Some symptoms to watch for are:

  • A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal
  • A lump on the lip or in the mouth or throat
  • A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth
  • Unusual bleeding, pain, or numbness in the mouth
  • A sore throat that does not go away, or a feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • Difficulty or pain with chewing or swallowing
  • Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
  • A change in your voice
  • Pain in the ear