Important roles dental professionals play in screening Oral, Head and Neck Cancer.
By Jessy Kozak, Emily Smith, and Heather Verrell, Boulton Dental, Merewether NSW.
Firstly we would like to advise that this article is provided for informational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The Big Hug Box would like to thank our extremely committed partners Boulton Dental and BioMeDent for their ongoing support in providing oral care support and awareness to our Big Hug Box Community this Head and Neck Cancer Day. Please also be aware that this article contains images of the mouth.
Dental professionals including dentists, oral health therapists and hygienists are one of the only health professionals to routinely examine the mouth. This provides an important opportunity to screen for oral lesions and cancer. 50% of oral cancers develop from small less sinister looking lesions. Therefore, early detection, management and preventative action plays a crucial role in treatment.
Signs and symptoms
Oral cancer can develop in all areas of the mouth including lips, cheeks, tongue, throat, floor of mouth, tonsils, salivary glands, pharynx, larynx and even your sinuses. It is important to recognize any possible symptoms to ensure a visit to your dentist as soon as possible for a comprehensive screen and examination. Oral cancer symptoms can be similar or disguise themselves as other problems, for example a sore throat or a small bump. Usually, symptoms will persist for longer periods, in which case an assessment should be booked in with your dentist. Signs and symptoms may include:
• Lump in neck or mouth.
• Difficulty swallowing or chewing.
• Changes to voice
• White or red patches in mouth
• Sore that doesn’t heal
• Unexplained weight loss
• Sore throat or persistent feeling of caught in throat.
Common Oral premalignant lesions
Image: Leuoplakia on tongue – white or grey patches that do not go away
Image: Erythrolplakia on cheek -Flat or slightly raised areas that are red and may bleed
Image: Discoid lupus erythematosus on palate – red patch with spots of white surrounding
Sun exposure to the lips
Human papilloma virus (HPV)or oral warts
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
Age, genetics, gender, and poor oral and general health
When you should get checked
How to prevent mouth cancer
associated with oral cancers.
Oral cancer equates to 3.2% of all new cancer diagnosis each year in Australia in 2022 and is the 6 the most common cancer worldwide.
What happens if something is found during an oral cancer screen?
and whether any further treatment is required.
here at Boulton regularly update their knowledge on oral cancer, so we can provide you with the best possible preventive and early diagnosis care.
During radiation treatment patients may experience
• Dry mouth
• Loss or change of taste
When a person has a dry mouth, the risk of tooth decay, tooth wear, gum disease and infection increase.
To moisten the mouth, we recommend trying OH! Care HA-X Gel – Gum Serum or mouthwash. These products contain hyaluronic acid used to relieve dry mouth symptoms, healing mouth ulcers and sore mouths caused by cancer treatments.
At Boulton Dental provide comprehensive and thorough Oral, Head, and neck cancer screening at every appointment. Our dentists, Oral health therapists and hygienists are all highly trained to detect signs and symptoms and can ensure quick specialist referral and advise.
1. Mavedatnia, D. et al. (2023) ‘Oral cancer screening knowledge and practices among dental professionals at the University of Toronto’, BMC Oral Health, 23(1). doi:10.1186/s12903-
2. Irani, S. (2020) ‘New insights into oral cancer—risk factors and prevention: A review of literature’, International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 11(1), p. 202.
3. Mouth cancer: Causes, symptoms &amp; treatments (2023) Cancer Council. Available at: https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/mouth-cancer (Accessed:14 July 2023).
4. Warnakulasuriya, S. and Kerr, A.R. (2021) ‘Oral cancer screening: Past, present, and future’, Journal of Dental Research, 100(12), pp. 1313–1320. doi:10.1177/00220345211014795.