During your regular visits, Dr. Lawlor may conduct an oral cancer screening. Screenings are a procedure that helps professionals detect cancer within their patients beforehand through examination and discovery of any abnormal tissue or other signs. When conditions such as oral cancer are discovered early on, they may be easier to treat. It is important to recognize that even if a dentist encourages the conducting of an oral cancer screening on you, it does not mean you are particularly at risk for it.

What to Expect

The Visual

We usually begin an oral screening by looking for bumps, swelling, discoloration, ulcerations, lack of symmetry, or other ‘abnormalities’. In order to look inside of the mouth or even the nose, we may use a form of light and some kind of mirror to properly see, as well as a tongue depressor to hold down or manipulate the position of the tongue. This is where the quintessential “Say Ahh” makes an appearance; patients are asked to do so because it helps the dentist more effectively see otherwise difficult areas such as the roof of the mouth or the throat. Dr. Lawlor can successfully examine the gums, roof of the mouth, inner cheeks, throat, tonsils, and underneath the tongue by utilizing additional tools.

The Physical

Whether this is directly after the visual exam or simultaneously, Dr. Lawlor will conduct a physical examination of specific areas. He will touch and check the cheeks, head, jaw, oral cavity, and chin for uncommon masses or bumps. The physical examination helps identify oral cancer by inspecting another typical sign, the immobility of commonly mobile tissues. During this time, the patient will be asked if the exam is causing any physical discomfort or pain. As you might expect, pain could be an indicator of oral cancer symptoms. However, if there is swelling, but no detectable pain, it’s still possible that there is a larger problem to be determined.

After the Screening

One of the most essential things to note is that oral cancer screenings are precautionary and not inherently diagnostic. We may find nothing abnormal during a visit, but you may be asked to return for regular screenings depending on certain risk factors, such as the use of tobacco or consumption of alcohol. Depending on the results, our team may recommend additional tests in order to further examine something that was found. However, just because something was noted during an oral cancer screening, it does not mean that the patient has oral cancer.

Our assistance doesn’t end in the event of an oral cancer diagnosis, though. Typical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can cause some complications in the oral cavity and our professionals can help patients maintain their quality of life throughout these difficult procedures. We also recommend scheduling and conducting a visit with us before following through on oral cancer treatments because of the conditions people commonly experience before or in between therapy.

Importance of Screening

Aside from the emphasis on the significance of an early diagnosis, oral cancer screenings exist as a chance for you to discuss any concerns you may have. Our team is only there to conduct the screening, but also for you to ask for advice about precautionary measures and what might help reduce the risk.  Always speak with one of our staff if you have any questions or concerns, whether during an exam or otherwise, and know that we’re here to help every step of the way.

For Your Reference


Means of prevention include:

  • Avoiding or stopping the use of tobacco
  • Avoiding alcohol or drinking in moderation
  • Avoiding extensive sun exposure to your lips
    • Stay in the shade when possible
    • Include sunscreen lip products in your sun protection routine
    • Wear large-brimmed hats that shade your face
  • Eat a diet rich in antioxidants and vitamins from fruits and vegetables
  • Visit your dentist regularly

If you are in need of an oral cancer screening, contact our Portland, ME office today to schedule an appointment.