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  • Writer's pictureDr. Nahid Afshari

Oral Cancer – Why Screening is Important

Oral Cancer is on the Rise

Did you know that the rate of oral cancer diagnosed in the U.S. has been on the rise over the last ten years? According to the American Cancer Society:

  • About 54,010 new cases of oral cavity or cancer of the oropharynx (see picture below).

  • About 10,850 deaths from oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.

These types of cancer occur most often in the following sites:

  • The tongue

  • The tonsils and oropharynx

  • The gums, floor of the mouth, and other parts of the mouth

The rest we find in the lips, the minor salivary glands (which often occur in the roof of the mouth), and other sites.


Oral cancer in its early stages can be painless or not visible. However, there are some symptoms that you may be able to identify on your own:

  • A white or red patch of tissue inside your mouth

  • A small hard ulcer that can look similar to a canker sore that does not heal within 14 days.

  • A hard spot in the tissue that does not go away within 14 days.

  • Numbness in the mouth

  • Prolonged hoarseness or sore throat

  • A painless lump in the mouth or on the neck that has persisted for more than 14 days.

  • Pain or difficulty swallowing, chewing, or speaking.

  • An earache on only one side

Who is at Risk?

  • The following factors can put someone at risk for the development of oral cancer:

  • Tobacco use

  • Excessive drinking of alcohol

  • Poor diet

  • Over the age of 40

  • Contracting the Human Papiloma Virus (strand 16)

The Importance of Screening

"Historically the death rate associated with this [oral] cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development." -- Oral Cancer Foundation

However, when we detect the cancer early, the survival rate for victims increases dramatically.

The early stages of many oral diseases are easy to miss with the naked eye, including cancer. For this reason, the importance of oral cancer screening is very high. The good news is new oral screening technology has given dentists the ability to catch specific abnormalities early on. The technology is ViziLitePro.® ViziLite Pro uses blue light screening technology to stimulate the tissues inside of your mouth. This blue light also dramatically enhances your dentist's ability to see things that would otherwise not be visible to the naked eye.

How Long Does the Exam Take?

Your dentist will first examine your mouth and throat under normal white light. Then they will examine your mouth and throat using the ViziLite Pro. The total exam only takes a few minutes.


With the new technology of the ViziLite Pro, oral screening is fast, simple, and painless. Such a simple screening procedure can help to save lives by detecting oral and oropharyngeal cancer in its early stages. Here at Fair Oaks Quality Dental, we now offer the oral screening. If you have any questions or would like to schedule your screening, contact us today.


Dr. Nahid Afshari

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