What Are Early Signs of Oral Cancer?

Tooth with magnifying glass looking at a smaller tooth to detect the signs of oral cancer

In 2022, the American Cancer Society estimates that around 54,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with oral cancer.

Although it may seem like a relatively small number — just .02% of the overall population and 3% of overall cancer diagnoses— it can be deadly if not properly diagnosed or treated. Oral cancer includes cancer in any part of the oral cavity, including the lips, gums, tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, the floor of the mouth under the tongue, and the part of the throat behind the oral cavity. 

Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because patients may not notice the early signs; it can spread without pain or easily recognizable symptoms. While doctors and scientists have not been able to pinpoint the exact causes of oral cancer, certain risk factors make you more susceptible to the disease. It is possible to inherit gene mutations that increase your cancer risk, but those inherited traits have not proven to cause many cases of oral cancer. It’s more likely caused by damage from tobacco and alcohol use, HPV (human papillomavirus), poor nutrition, or excessive exposure to UV rays.

Tooth with glasses looking over a long list of signs

What Are the Early Signs of Mouth Cancer?

Early signs of oral cancer may be difficult to spot, which is just one reason it’s essential to visit your dentist annually. Your dentist and hygienist are far more likely to notice cancer warning signs during your exam than when doing oral care at home. 

Oral cancer screening is a standard part of your routine dental exam. Your dentist will look for unusual white or reddish patches inside or abnormal growths and lumps inside your mouth. They may also examine your throat and neck for abnormalities that could indicate oral cancer. 

If your dentist notices any unusual sores, lumps, or other abnormalities, she will likely schedule a follow-up visit soon after your initial appointment. If the abnormal area hasn’t healed before the follow-up appointment, your dentist may perform a biopsy or refer you to an oral cancer specialist for further diagnosis.

What Are the Early Signs of Mouth Cancer?

If you have unusual signs or symptoms that bother you and persist for more than two weeks, make an appointment with your dentist. 

tooth in pain

Common symptoms of oral cancer may include:

  • Mouth pain
  • A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal
  • Loose teeth
  • A white or reddish patch on the inside of your mouth
  • A growth or lump inside of your mouth
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Ear pain

It’s important to note that your symptoms may result from something more common than oral cancer; before jumping to conclusions, check-in with the team at Bass Dentistry to discuss your concerns.

excited tooth looking over a treatment plan

Oral Cancer Treatment

Creating a treatment plan for oral cancer is based on the location and extent of cancer, personal preferences, and overall health. The length of treatment and possible side effects would be explained by your doctor depending on your treatment decision. Your doctor will help you decide the best course of action. 

Your dentist is one of your first lines of defense against oral cancer. Dr. Bass and our hygienists watch for unusual symptoms or tissue changes during every routine examination. If you notice any abnormalities in your mouth, call us at 704.864.9949 or book an appointment online. We’re here to help you keep your whole mouth healthy!

Healthy Gums,
Healthy Life

If dental health is important to you and your family, take steps to know how to keep your gums healthy. Gum health is essential to maintaining healthy teeth and overall good dental hygiene. Brush and floss multiple times per day, avoid tobacco products, and use a therapeutic mouthwash. 

If you want to know more about maintaining a healthy smile, book an appointment today with Bass Dentistry.

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