Solterra Dentistry

Signs of Oral Cancer and what to watch out for

November 10, 2022
6 Min Read
Signs of Oral Cancer and what to watch out for

Do you know the warning signs of oral cancer?

Mouth cancer is cancer that develops in any parts that make up the mouth (oral cavity), such as the mouth or throat tissues. It occurs as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away.

Oral cancer is one of several types grouped into head and neck cancers, and all of these are often treated similarly. 

Cancer has become a worldwide epidemic recently, and cures are still underway. This year, more than 51,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer. But despite that, over the past 30 years, the death rate from oral cancer has declined. Men are more likely to get oral cancer.

What causes oral cancer?

Oral cancer begins in squamous cells in the oral cavity. Squamous cells are flat and look like fish scales when viewed under a microscope.

Normal squamous cells become cancerous when their DNA changes and the cells begin to grow and multiply. Over time, these cancerous cells can spread to other areas inside the mouth and then to the head and neck or other body areas.

Where is oral cancer most common?

Cancer inside the mouth is sometimes called oral cancer or oral cavity cancer. But it is also called cancer that appears in:

  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • The inner lining of the cheeks
  • Hard and soft palate
  • The floor of the mouth (under the tongue)
  • Sinuses
  • Tonsils 
  • Pharynx

Signs and symptoms of oral cancer 

Oral cancer can occur at any age, whether you use tobacco or not. As with other cancers, prompt treatment and early diagnosis improve your chances of survival. But would you know if you are at risk? 

The early symptoms of mouth cancer are often mistaken for other dental problems, such as toothaches or gum disease. When diagnosed early, the prognosis of oral cancers improves significantly, so early detection is essential. 

For this, it is necessary to know the signs and symptoms to learn how to prevent it since it can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated in time. Some of these are:

  • A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal
  • A white, reddish, or mottled (white and red) spot on the inside of the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • A growth or lump inside the mouth
  • Pain in the mouth
  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing or chewing
  • Swelling in the neck
  • A sore on the cheek
  • Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
  • If you wear dentures, they may be uncomfortable or difficult to fit.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant bad breath
  • Mouth sores that do not heal within several weeks
  • Unexplained, persistent lumps in the lymph nodes in the neck that do not go away
  • Voice changes or trouble speaking
  • Bleeding or numbness in the mouth
  • An oral cavity that does not heal after a tooth is extracted
  • Loss of sensation or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
  • Hoarseness, chronic sore throat
  • Swelling/thickening, rough spots/crusts/eroded areas on the lips, gums, cheeks, or other areas inside the mouth
  • Persistent cough
  • Frequent nosebleeds

As with many other types of cancer, the signs and symptoms of oral cancer vary from person to person. These symptoms can be caused by less severe conditions, such as an infection. However, it's strongly recommended that you see a dentist if any of the symptoms have lasted longer than three weeks. 

Preventive dentistry and the chance of survival 

When detected early, oral cancer is much easier for doctors to treat. Seeing your trusted dentist regularly and learning to spot suspicious changes increases your chances of receiving an early diagnosis. 

Early signs and symptoms of oral cancer can be difficult to detect and are sometimes easily missed. Most people receive a diagnosis when their disease is too advanced to be treated effectively. 

Because of this, many dentists perform a brief oral cancer screening as part of a routine dental checkup. Usually includes an examination of the entire mouth and lips, as well as the face and neck, for possible signs and symptoms of cancer. 

In addition to helping you keep your teeth and gums healthy, preventive dentistry is another reason you must see your dentist regularly. That's why it's essential to familiarize yourself with the early signs of oral cancer, so you can quickly bring them to your dentist's attention should they occur.

What things increase the risk of oral cancer?

About 75% of people who develop oral cancer have the following habits:

  • Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Consuming these products makes you six times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-smokers.
  • Using smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, dip, snuff, or water pipes (hookah or shush) increases 50 times more likely of developing cancer.
  • Regularly drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. 
  • Drinking alcohol and tobacco together increases the chances even more.
  • Spending a lot of time in the sun without protecting your lips with sunscreen, especially at a young age.
  • Having human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Having a family history of oral cancer.
  • Studies have found a link between oral cancer and not eating enough vegetables and fruits.

Visit your dentist regularly in Phoenix, AZ

Dr. Manov's multi-specialty team at Solterra Dentistry uses a variety of diagnostic tests, such as an oral cavity exam with fiber optic technologies, to get to the bottom of bothersome symptoms. 

A cancer diagnosis can be scary. However, know that you don't have to go it alone. With early identification, you can take action and avoid oral cancer.

Based on a thorough evaluation, we can provide an accurate diagnosis and, if necessary, recommend an individualized treatment plan to help you achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life.

Contact us now at (602) 788-0730 if you suspect oral cancer, or visit our website to schedule an appointment with our dental experts.

Get in touch with us!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.