Oral Cancer Screenings

Prioritize Your Health: Comprehensive Oral Cancer Screenings at Bozeman Gentle Dentistry

Are you taking proactive steps to safeguard your overall health? At Bozeman Gentle Dentistry, your Southwest Montana dental practice, we believe oral cancer screenings should be an integral part of your preventive care routine. 

Led by Bozeman, MT dentist Dr. Cassandra Murphy, our team provides a comprehensive oral cancer screening to every patient at least once a year. Screening tests can detect this potentially life-threatening disease in its earliest stages, when treatment is most effective. Click the button below to schedule your appointment and learn more. 

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What Is Oral Cancer?

Oral Cavity (Mouth) and Oropharyngeal (Throat) Cancer develops in the mouth, lips, tongue, throat, or surrounding areas. Mouth and throat cancers can manifest as persistent sores, lumps, or rough patches in the oral cavity. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 58,450 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancers will be diagnosed in 2024. Early detection is crucial, as oral cancer can spread quickly if left untreated, making regular screenings a vital component of preventive care.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

Common risk factors for oral cancer include the following:

  • Tobacco Use: Smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or using smokeless tobacco increases the risk of developing oral cancer. Tobacco contains carcinogenic compounds that damage cells in the mouth, leading to cancerous growths.
  • Alcohol Consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption, especially when combined with tobacco use, significantly raises the risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancers. Alcohol irritates the cells in the mouth, making them more susceptible to the carcinogens found in tobacco.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection: Certain strains of HPV, particularly HPV-16 and HPV-18, are associated with an increased risk of oral cancer. HPV can cause genetic changes in oral cells, leading to the development of mouth cancer.
  • Sun Exposure: Prolonged exposure to sunlight, especially on the lips, increases the risk of developing lip cancer. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation damages the DNA in lip cells, promoting the formation of cancerous tumors.
  • Poor Oral Hygiene: Neglecting oral hygiene such as regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups can contribute to the risk of developing oral cancers. Poor oral hygiene allows bacteria to accumulate, leading to chronic inflammation and potentially carcinogenic changes in oral tissues.
  • Age: The risk for oral cancers goes up as people get older. Most cases happen in those over 45 years old. This could be from being exposed to risk factors over time, and cells being less able to repair as we age.
  • Poor Diet: A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, may increase the risk of oral cancer. A lack of nutrients weakens the immune system and reduces the body’s ability to fight off cancerous cells.
  • Genetic Factors: Certain genetic mutations inherited from family members can make individuals more susceptible to oral cancer. These mutations may affect the body’s ability to repair damaged DNA or regulate cell growth, increasing susceptibility to cancer development.
  • Chronic Oral Irritation: Chronic irritation from ill-fitting full or partial dentures, rough dental fillings, or constant rubbing of oral tissues against sharp teeth or dental appliances can increase the risk of oral cancer. Persistent irritation can lead to cellular damage and inflammation, promoting cancer.
  • Previous History of Oral Cancer: Individuals who have previously been diagnosed with oral cancer have a higher risk of developing recurrent or new cancers in the oral cavity.

What Are Oral Cancer Screenings?

Oral cancer screenings, also known as oral cancer screening tests, are non-invasive examinations performed by dental professionals to check for signs and symptoms of oral cancer. These screenings involve a visual and physical inspection of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat, as well as the use of specialized tools and techniques to detect any abnormalities that may indicate the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells.

Benefits of Oral Cancer Screenings

Early Detection Enhances Treatment Outcomes and Survival Rates

Oral cancer screenings facilitate the identification of cancer at its nascent stages, enabling prompt intervention. Timely detection of cancer cells significantly enhances the effectiveness of treatment modalities, subsequently improving survival rates and patient prognosis.

Identification of Precancerous Conditions

Cancer screenings not only pinpoint existing signs of cancer but also detect precancerous lesions and conditions. Addressing these precursors can prevent their progression into full-blown cancer, potentially saving lives and reducing the need for more invasive treatments.

Increased Awareness and Understanding

Routine oral cancer screenings promote awareness among individuals about oral cancers and the risk factors associated with oral cancer. This heightened awareness encourages proactive behavior, such as tobacco cessation, limiting alcohol consumption, and maintaining good oral hygiene, thereby reducing the incidence of oral cancer.

Promotion of Proactive Healthcare

By undergoing regular screenings, individuals take proactive steps toward safeguarding their health. Proactive healthcare practices contribute to early detection and intervention and foster a culture of preventive care, leading to better overall well-being.

Peace of Mind

For individuals undergoing oral cancer screenings, the process offers reassurance and peace of mind. Knowing that they are actively monitoring their oral health status through screenings provides a sense of control and empowerment over their health outcomes.

Promotes Timely Intervention and Treatment Planning

Early detection through screenings allows healthcare professionals to initiate timely intervention strategies and formulate comprehensive treatment plans tailored to each patient’s needs. This proactive approach minimizes the progression of the disease, reduces treatment complexities, and improves the overall quality of care provided to patients.

Tools Used For Oral Cancer Screenings

Some dental tools used during oral cancer screenings include:

  1. Oral Exam: A visual inspection of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat.
  2. Tactile Exam: Feeling for lumps or abnormalities in the oral cavity.
  3. Oral Cancer Screening Dye (e.g., toluidine blue): Stains abnormal cells, making them easier to detect.
  4. Oral Cancer Screening Light (e.g., VELscope): Uses special light to highlight abnormal tissue.

The Oral Cancer Screening Process


Before your oral cancer screening, you’ll have an initial consultation with Dr. Murphy, your Bozeman dentist. During your initial consultation, Dr. Murphy will discuss your medical history, risk factors, and any concerns you may have. She will explain the importance of oral cancer screenings and answer any questions about the process.


No special preparation is typically required for an oral cancer screening test. However, avoid consuming food or beverages that may stain your mouth for a few hours before the oral cancer screening.

Oral Cancer Screening

The oral cancer screening process begins with a thorough visual examination of your mouth, lips, tongue, soft palate, and throat. Dr. Murphy will look for any abnormalities, such as red or white patches, lumps, or irregularities in the tissue. She may also use specialized tools like oral cancer screening dye with an oral cancer screening light to aid in the detection of any suspicious areas.

If any abnormalities are found, Dr. Murphy may recommend a biopsy or further testing to determine the nature of the lesion. If the cells are determined to be cancerous, she’ll recommend you to a specialist for appropriate treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Oral cancer screenings are generally accurate but not perfect. Occasionally, they may give false results due to various factors such as the skill of the healthcare provider or other conditions affecting the mouth. Despite this, regular screenings are still highly valuable for catching potential issues early and improving outcomes for patients.

Whether oral cancer screenings are covered by insurance depends on your specific insurance plan, but many plans cover them as part of preventive care. It’s best to check with your insurance provider to confirm coverage. 

It’s ideal to have oral cancer screenings annually, especially if you have risk factors such as tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, or a history of oral cancer in your family. Regular screenings can help detect oral cancer early when treatment is most effective.

No, oral cancer screenings are non-invasive and generally pain-free. The process involves a visual examination and may include special dyes or lights, but there should be no discomfort.

Protect Your Health: Schedule Your Oral Cancer Screening Today!

If you live in Bozeman, MT, or surrounding areas such as Three Forks, Amsterdam, or Four Corners, MT, prioritize your health and schedule an oral cancer screening at Bozeman Gentle Dentistry today. 

Early detection of oral and oropharyngeal cancers is crucial, which is why our experienced team, led by Dr. Murphy, is dedicated to providing thorough preventive care. Don’t wait – take proactive steps to safeguard your well-being and protect yourself against oral cancer. Call us now to schedule your appointment and take control of your oral health.

Dr. Murphy

Meet Your Bozeman Dentist

My mission is to provide a comfortable, caring environment where you can expect to receive the most thorough and gentle care possible. I will take the time to learn what goals you wish to achieve, and we can also address any fear, guilt, or embarrassment you may be feeling that is preventing you from achieving those goals.

Meet Dr. Murphy

We Think Seeing the Dentist Should Be Simple

Seems like a no-brainer! Here at Bozeman Gentle Dentistry, we want seeing the dentist to be as easy as possible. You should feel heard, appreciated, and respected during every step of your visit. See how we make dentistry better for all our patients.

Easy Scheduling

Be seen when it’s most convenient for you and your family thanks to convenient, online appointment requests and flexible scheduling options. No more rushing to the dentist or trying to find the time.

Modern Convenience

Your visit should be stress-free, not stressful! Enjoy the convenience of mobile booking, digital forms, easy payment options, and much more.

State-of-the-art Technology

We use the latest equipment and treatments that modern dentistry has to offer, providing you with effective care for a lasting smile. Our treatments are designed to make you feel comfortable at all times.

Bozeman Gentle Dentistry is here to see you smile!