Oral Cancer: Signs & Symptoms

What is oral cancer?

Oral cancer is a type of cancer that can affect the lips, roof and floor of your mouth, gums, tongue, as well as the inside of your cheeks. 

An easy way to remember what could be categorized as oral cancer is any cancer that forms inside the oral cavity of your body. Oral cancer is included as a part of the head and neck cancers. 

The Oral Cancer Foundation stated that “of all the head and neck cancers, they [oral cancer] comprise about 85% of that category.” 

Approximately 53,000 people will be diagnosed with a form of oral cancer each year.


What are the signs & symptoms of oral cancer?

There are a few signs & symptoms of oral cancer. These can include:

  • Challenges or pain when swallowing
  • Loose teeth
  • A sore on your lip, tongue, cheek, or mouth sore that doesn’t seem to heal
  • Reddish or white patch in your mouth that doesn’t go away
  • Swelling
  • Growth of a lump that has formed in the oral cavity
  • Persistent bad breath

The best course of action is to monitor these signs & symptoms for a couple of weeks. If these symptoms have not gone away or if they have worsened during this time, you need to contact your provider for further evaluation.


How to prevent and treat oral cancer 

While there is not a way for us to completely prevent oral cancer, there are some steps you can take in order to work towards early detection and prevention.

  • Cut Out Tobacco: We know that smoking can cause a host of problems for one’s health. The act of smoking itself opens up your mouth to foreign, dangerous chemicals that can affect and damage every part of your oral cavity.
  • Limit Excessive Sun Exposure: The sun’s UVA/UVB rays are stronger than ever and your mouth is a sensitive and delicate spot that needs protection. Be sure to limit excessive sun exposure. When you are outside, use sunscreen and a brimmed hat to cover your face and mouth.
  • Visit Your Dentist: Your dentist is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle of early detection. You may only think of your dentist being able to clean your teeth, X-ray, and fill cavities. However, dentists nowadays are specifically trained to perform an oral exam to check your mouth for any suspicious spots of oral cancer. And, because you see your dentist at least twice a year, they can track any changes that come up.


How often should I be screened for oral cancer?

The American Cancer Society recommends that patients over the age of 20 receive an oral cancer screening at least every three years. 

For those over 40, the recommendation is for a screening once every year. 

However, many dentists perform an oral cancer screening at every cleaning as it has become a regular part of cleanings and exams.


Can Shining Smiles help me get screened for oral cancer?

Absolutely! Shining Smiles Family Dentistry is equipped to be your first line of defense against oral cancers. The team is focused on providing the highest quality and level of dental care in order to achieve the very best outcomes. 

At Shining Smiles, you’re not a number and you will be treated with care and concern. 

By coming to us for regular checkups, we will be able to build a valuable patient/doctor relationship where you are able to voice your concerns, advocate for your health, and, in turn, work towards overall health. 

Call us today to schedule an appointment and ask for an oral cancer screening!