Oral cancer is straightforward for dentists to detect early on. They can easily identify lesions in the mouth that are precancerous. But for people living in parts of the world with few dentists, these lesions can go undiagnosed until it is too late for effective treatment. Now a patent application has been filed for a device that aims to tackle that problem, designed by Manu Prakash of Stanford University and his colleagues.

Called OScan, the device has bite guides to hold open a patient's mouth and a mount that allows a smartphone or digital camera to attach to the front. In this way, health workers in the field can easily photograph the inside of a person's mouth and send those images wirelessly to an off-site dentist or medical expert who can evaluate them for signs of malignancy. In countries such as India, where there can be as few as one dentist per quarter of a million residents in rural areas and where oral cancer accounts for more than 40 percent of all cancer-related deaths, OScan has the potential to save many lives.