This year, over 30,000 new cases of oral cancer will be detected in the US alone, and almost 8,000 people will die from it.  Oral cancer is the only cancer in the US that is rising.  This is  a concern with the number of young people using tobacco, especially with a number of them now using "snuff".  There has been nearly a five fold increase in oral cancer in people under 40, even with NO known risk factors (alcohol and tobacco).  The insidious thing about oral cancer is that it may start off so harmless looking.  A small lump or bump, a white or red spot in your mouth that you may not notice.
We do an oral cancer exam at every visit when you come in for your cleaning- no matter your age.  If you notice something funny in your mouth, DON'T WAIT.  Early detection is the key.  Oral cancer only has a 50% 5-year survival rate if detected late.
A  tool called Oral CDx has become available that can painlessly and easily check suspicious lesions.  It found cancer or dysphasia (the step before cancer) in an amazing 5% of lesions that were only slated for observation.  Oral CDx gives us a new tool to quickly, accurately, and painlessly check these lesions.  Previously, the only way to check a lesion was to refer you to an oral surgeon and to have them cut out a part of the lesion and send it in for testing.  Oral CDx is a brush biopsy.  It looks like a small bottle brush and all we do is wipe it across the lesion a few times  to gather some cells from the area.  Those cells are wiped onto a slide and mailed to a special laboratory that checks the sample with a computer-assisted microscope.  Simple and painless.  And very accurate.
Oral CDx website:
American Dental Association website on oral cancer: