Dental Health Info Article


The VELscope screening device helps in the early detection of oral cancer.

Check Out VELscope®!

If you need another reason to see your dentist regularly, consider this: Dentists are the first line of defense in the detection of oral cancer. That's important because early detection of the disease can have a significant impact on the outcome. The earlier oral cancer is found, the better the odds of beating it.

Oral cancer screening is routinely performed by dentists during regular dental visits. In addition to a manual evaluation, some dentists also use a screening device called a VELscope®. This painless, non-invasive tool can be used to see potentially harmful abnormalities in the tissue of your mouth that your dentist can't spot. The result? Detecting oral cancers that otherwise might not be found.

The Oral Cancer Problem

Nearly 35,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer every year. Early detection can result in an 80 to 90 percent recovery rate. One of the biggest challenges is finding an effective way to detect oral cancer early on.

That's where your dentist comes in. In addition to checking for cavities, dental plaque or a loose tooth filling, your dentist will examine the entire mouth for signs of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions. You may have a very small spot or sore in your mouth and not even know it. Suspicious looking areas can be checked out further with a biopsy, which involves the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope. This is the only way to determine whether or not you have oral cancer.

The VELscope Screening Tool

In addition to the manual oral cancer exam, some dentists are now using VELscope. VELscope is an FDA-approved early oral cancer screening detection device. It is not a replacement for the traditional oral exam performed by your dentist, but a tool used in combination. VELscope allows your dentist to see abnormalities in the tissues in your mouth that aren't visible to the human eye, those below the surface that your dentist can't see yet.

The dentist begins an oral cancer screening by performing an examination of your neck, lymph glands, cheeks, tongue and lips. The dentist will then use the hand-held VELscope device to check inside your mouth for suspicious-looking tissue. VELscope emits a safe blue light into the oral cavity, which excites the tissue, causing it to fluoresce. Abnormal tissue typically appears as an irregular, dark area that stands out against the otherwise normal, green fluorescence pattern of surrounding healthy tissue.

The VELscope screening takes one or two minutes and does not require any special rinses or stains. Your dentist should give you protective glasses to wear while the VELscope is being used.

Get Screened for Oral Cancer Regularly

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid smoking and heavy drinking, both of which are risk factors. Regular dental exams -- including a check of the entire mouth -- are also essential to detecting oral cancer early. Seeing a dentist who uses the VELscope screening system increases your chances of detecting a potentially cancerous lesion early on. (There may or may not be a fee for the VELscope screening, so be sure to ask.)

If you think you might be at risk for oral cancer, don't try to self-diagnose. Talk to your dentist about oral cancer screening and VELscope. If you don't have a dentist, we can help you find one!