Oral Cancer Screening Dentists | Sunshine Coast

At each of our Sunshine Coast dental practices in Caloundra, Kawana and Maroochydore we offer advanced oral cancer screening services to our patients.

Most of the time, the worst thing that can happen in dentistry is someone loses a tooth.  While this is never pleasant, especially if it is a front smiling tooth or back chewing tooth, people don’t die from losing a tooth.  Oral cancer is one of the few times in dentistry where the consequences can be life threatening.

Oral Cancer Information

Oral cancer is the 11th most prevalent cancer in the world today, affecting thousands of people world-wide each year.  Most of the oral cancers diagnosed  (90%) are squamous cell carcinomas.  There has been little improvement in the incidence of oral cancer or the number of deaths associated with oral cancer over the last 3 decades.  In Australia, approximately 1% of all cancer deaths are associated with oral cancer and two to three percent of all cancer diagnoses in Australia are oral cancer with this incidence slowly increasing.


Human Papilloma Virus

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) associated cancers are the fastest growing group of oropharyngeal cancers with the incidence of HPV positive oropharyngeal cancers increasing by 225% over the past 3 decades.  HPV-16 is found in approximately 22% of oropharyngeal tumours and HPV-18 is found in 14% of oropharyngeal tumours.  Infection with oral HPV increases the risk of developing oropharyngeal cancer 3 to 5 times.  HPV is spread by oral sex and women who have had oral sex have a four fold increase in the risk of cancer to the base of the tongue and men who have had same sex sexual relations have a nine times increased risk of developing oral cancer.


Oral Cancer Risk Factors and Signs

Oral Cancer Risk FactorsOral Cancer Signs
SmokingAfter two weeks a sore in the mouth has not healed
Alcohol consumptionSwellings, lumps and bumps that have not healed in 2 weeks
Viral Infection with human papilloma virus (HPV)White, dark or red areas in the mouth or noticeable colour change in oral tissues
Sunlight exposure (lip cancers)Repeated bleeding from a specific sore in the mouth
AgeLoss of sensation or numbness or pain in the mouth or lips
Genetic predispositionHigh risk areas for oral cancer are the sides of the tongue and floor of the mouth but can affect the lips, cheek, gums or palate (roof of the mouth).
Nutritional deficiencies (mainly associated with vitamins A, C and E)
Chewing tobacco, snuff, betel nut use

Survival Rates of Oral Cancer

Early detection of oral cancer greatly improves the prognosis for the individual with 5 year survival rates varying greatly from early cancers (stage 1) to advanced cancers (stage 4) – see table.  Unfortunately, many oral cancers (approximately 60%) are not diagnosed until they are advanced lesions, which greatly reduce survival rates.  This is not because they are more difficult to diagnose than other cancers but because it has not been screened for regularly.

Oral Cancer 5 Year Survival Rates By Stage of Diagnosis

Stage of cancer5 year survival rate %
Stage 185%
Stage 266%
Stage 341%
Stage 49%


Oral Cancer Screening 

It is the responsibility of dental health professionals to screen for oral cancer to improve the prevention and detection of oral cancer.  When you come to the dentist or hygienist for your regular active maintenance and exams it offers the perfect opportunity to screen for oral cancer.  The mouth is easily accessible for this screening process compared to other areas such as a colon or prostate, and this process could potentially save your life.

Oral Fluorescence Technology

As early detection of oral cancer greatly improves the outcomes for patients, the dentists and hygienists at Avenue Dental use a variety of methods to help detect oral cancer early.  Conventional visual screening under bright illumination is used as well as palpation of the oral tissues.  In additional to these methods, at Avenue Dental we also use the fluorescence technology of Oral ID.  Oral ID uses a bright blue light in the 435-460 nanometers range and the different fluorescent properties of healthy versus abnormal lesions to help a clinician more easily identify abnormal tissues.

Oral Cancer Prevention

We all know that prevention is better than a cure.  The best way to treat oral cancer is to prevent it by reducing your risk factors.  Some things you cannot change such as your age or genetics.  However, lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, and exposure to HPV and excessive sunlight can be reduced to reduce your risk of oral cancer.