People don’t realize how astute oral health professionals such as dentists can be at spotting skin cancer as well as cancer inside the mouth.

Visiting the dentist is more than just about your teeth; a visit can save your life.

For example, if you have an “ugly” melanoma growing somewhere on your neck where you normally don’t look, a dentist or dental hygienist may easily notice it due to the way you’re lying in the dentist’s chair, and also due to the length of time that the professional is working close to your face.

They may easily notice an odd looking mole and point it out to you.

Scott H. Froum, DDS, is a periodontist in NYC. He says, “I take at least three to four biopsies per week — some of which turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma.”

Many people don’t realize that when a dentist or periodontist suspects cancer inside the mouth, they are highly qualified to excise the tissue for a biopsy.

Dentists and periodontists take oral biopsies all the time. However, they don’t make the diagnosis under the microscope; that is left to a pathologist.

If a suspicious lesion is outside the mouth, such as on the lip, nose, cheek or neck, the dental professional does not take a biopsy. They can only point it out to the patient.

It’s up to the patient to make an appointment with a dermatologist, who will then remove the tissue for a biopsy.

Dr. Froum continues, “I’ve had a few melanomas over my career, but by far, the majority — due to HPV and an increase in alcohol/tobacco use — has been oral squamous cell carcinoma and severe dysplasia.”

Pictures of Melanoma on the Lip

Below are two images of melanoma on the lip that Dr. Froum had spotted on two patients.

Note the large “freckle” on the lower lip, just right of the center from the viewer’s perspective. Scott H. Froum, DDS,
Diplomate, American Board of Periodontology; Diplomate, American Academy of Osseointegration


The melanoma on this patient’s upper lip on the viewer’s right is less obvious, but an astute dentist will notice that it doesn’t quite look normal. Scott H. Froum, DDS, Diplomate, American Board of Periodontology; Diplomate, American Academy of Osseointegration

Oral Cancer Can Occur in Young Adults

Dr. Froum wrote a report for Dentistry IQ on a 26-year-old woman who saw him for inflammation related to an implant.

He noticed a suspicious lesion on the right side border of her tongue.

The patient had stated that she’d known about it for several months but had attributed it to biting her tongue.

Dr. Froum recommended a biopsy. However, the patient and her mother, who was present, brushed off the advice.

A few months later the mother informed him that she’d had the lesion biopsied by an ear, nose and throat physician, and the diagnosis was squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue.

Despite the delays in diagnosis, the cancer was found to be very confined, meaning a good prognosis.

Below is a graphic picture of the squamous cell carcinoma that Dr. Froum had noticed and alerted the patient to.


Cancer on the tongue of one of Dr. Froum’s patients. Scott H. Froum, DDS, Diplomate, American Board of Periodontology; Diplomate, American Academy of Osseointegration

Jarri Amini, DDS, is a general dentist who runs, which helps people find dentists and gives dental advice.

Dr. Amini explains, “A 79 year old man came to see me for a routine dental examination.

“He had already been to see his doctor, with a sore throat, and was given anti-fungal medication.

“He was complaining that he had difficulty swallowing for a few weeks.

“When I looked in his mouth I saw a reddish patch (3-4 cm in size) on the soft mucosa on one side of his throat.

“He had been a pipe smoker for over 60 years.

“I referred him to the hospital urgently and he had a biopsy of the area.

“This confirmed he had tonsillar squamous cell carcinoma.

“He underwent surgery to remove the tumor and associated lymph nodes, and had radiotherapy.

“Unfortunately the cancer came back a year later and was terminal.”

Dr. Amini describes a second case, a 63 year old woman who came in for a routine dental exam.

“She had a lump on her palate which was around 2-3 cm in diameter.

“She had had the lump since childhood, but recently it had swollen slightly more, and was turning black around the edges.

“I referred her urgently for a biopsy.

“This came back confirming that she had polymorphus adenocarcinoma arising from minor salivary glands of the palate.

“She underwent surgery to have this cancer removed from the roof of her mouth.

“Thankfully it had been caught before it had any time to spread.

“She now wears an obturator (similar to a denture) to cover the hole in the area.

“Although at first she had difficulty eating and drinking, she is now fit and well, clear of cancer.”

Dr. Amini is based in the UK and has been practicing all aspects of dentistry for 10 years. My Private Dentist facilitates connections between patients and dentists, improving patient experience by making dentists and their highly skilled services more accessible across the country.
Dr. Froum is a board certified periodontist who received his DDS from the State University of New York Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine. He has lectured on the national and international level on implant therapy, bone and gum regeneration, and complications.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 


Top image: Shutterstock/Djomas