A little more than 3 percent of the students screened Tuesday at Carson High School were found to have signs of leukoplakia, the precursor of cancer.
"They were seriously rattled," said Terri Clark, director of the dental screening program from the University of Nevada, Reno. "There was definitely shock on their faces. It was a big shot of reality."
The oral screening is part of a Crackdown on Cancer program which is kicking off this week at Carson High School. As part of the program, all willing juniors and seniors are examined orally in mobile dental offices from the university.
Each student is assigned a number to ensure anonymity and records will be kept for future studies.
"About 33.7 percent of high school kids in Nevada use tobacco," said Dr. Kaye Reese from the UNLV School of Dentistry.
The program is funded through part of NevadaOs share of a 1998 multibillion-dollar national settlement with tobacco companies tied to smoking-related death and illness.
"We're taking the money and turning it right back against (the tobacco industry)," Reese said.
Students who use tobacco are also referred to counselors to help them quit.
"It's an excellent idea," said Mike Fischer, 17, who said he does not smoke. "I guarantee probably most of those people who walk across the street (to smoke), their parents don't know what they're doing.
"It's good that they keep it anonymous. I wouldn't doubt it if half of them had something."
Ninth-grade health teacher Susan Oakwood said she hopes the students who use tobacco will realize the potential consequences and quit.
However, Meghann Adams, 17, whose grandmother has emphysema, said she already understands the consequences of smoking, but isn't ready to quit.
"I don't plan on smoking forever but I smoke at least a half a pack a day," Adams said. "It's just a phase right now. I'm addicted now, but if I wanted to quit I probably could."
Three of the 90 students screened Monday were found with signs of precancer. Those students, and any other found with similar symptoms, will have a follow-up appointment later in the week for a biopsy. If leukoplakia is discovered, their parents will be notified.
The dental vans will be at the high school all week.