Adjunctive techniques for oral cancer examination and lesion diagnosis: a systematic review of the literature

J Am Dent Assoc. 2008 Jul;139(7):896-905; quiz 993-4. doi: 10.14219/jada.archive.2008.0276.


Background: Adjunctive techniques that may facilitate the early detection of oral premalignant and malignant lesions (OPML) have emerged in the past decades.

Methods: The authors undertook a systematic review of the English-language literature to evaluate the effectiveness of toluidine blue (TB), ViziLite Plus with TBlue (Zila Pharmaceuticals, Phoenix), ViziLite (Zila Pharmaceuticals), Microlux DL (AdDent, Danbury, Conn.), Orascoptic DK (Orascoptic, a Kerr Company, Middleton, Wis.), VELscope (LED Dental, White Rock, British Columbia, Canada) and OralCDx (Oral CDx Laboratories, Suffern, N.Y.) brush biopsy. They abstracted data relating to study design, sampling and characteristics of the study group, interventions, reported outcomes and diagnostic accuracy of adjunctive aids from 23 articles meeting inclusion and exclusion criteria, including availability of histologic outcomes.

Results: The largest evidence base was for TB. A limited number of studies was available for ViziLite, ViziLite Plus with TBlue and OralCDx. Studies of VELscope have been conducted primarily to assess the margins of lesions in known OPML. The authors identified no studies of Microlux DL or Orascoptic DK. Study designs had various limitations in applicability to the general practice setting, including use of higher-risk populations and expert examiners.

Conclusions: There is evidence that TB is effective as a diagnostic adjunct for use in high-risk populations and suspicious mucosal lesions. OralCDx is useful in assessment of dysplastic changes in clinically suspicious lesions; however, there are insufficient data meeting the inclusion criteria to assess usefulness in innocuous mucosal lesions. Overall, there is insufficient evidence to support or refute the use of visually based examination adjuncts. Practical Implications. Given the lack of data on the effectiveness of adjunctive cancer detection techniques in general dental practice settings, clinicians must rely on a thorough oral mucosal examination supported by specialty referral and/or tissue biopsy for OPML diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Coloring Agents
  • Cytodiagnosis
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Endoscopy
  • Humans
  • Luminescence
  • Mouth Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Precancerous Conditions / diagnosis*


  • Coloring Agents