Oral Cancer screening is taught at every dental school and is a recommended part of every new patient and periodic exams. The dentist usually will start by looking at the lips, outside and inside then looking at the inside of the cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, the tongue on top and under. They would look for anything out of the ordinary including white spots, red spots, open sores, lumps etc. Many dentists will also use some diagnostic aids, like the Velscope, ViziLite or Trimira to further evaluate areas of interest. A diagnosis for oral cancer can only be confirmed with a microscopic evaluation of a biopsied area.
When there is a suspect area, your dentist may do a brush biopsy (similar to Pap smear in gynecology) or may perform or an excisional (full removal) or incisional (part removal) biopsy. Should the lab result confirm a cancerous lesion, you would then be referred to an oncologist.
More Answers from Claudio Levato, DDS