During your twice-yearly exams with the team at Gentle Dental, we do more than simply make your teeth look shiny and bright. Sure, removing tartar and plaque and polishing your teeth are important. But even more important is our examination for the signs of oral cancer. That’s why we pull on your tongue, push on your skin just under your jawline (checking your glands), and perform other brief diagnostic exercises.
There are various symptoms of oral cancer, but our visual examination is critical to early detection.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is described as beginning in the oral cavity. This can include the lips, the inside lining of the lips and cheeks, the teeth, gums, most of the tongue, the bottom of the mouth, and the hard palate.
Catching oral cancer early is the key to successfully beating it. For instance, if it’s caught in the early phases, stage 1, survival rates are 80-85%.
Symptoms of oral cancer
These are some of the most common oral cancer signs or symptoms:
- A sore in the mouth that doesn’t heel is the most common symptom of oral cancer
- Persistent mouth pain, in contrast to tooth pain
- A lump or thickening in the cheek
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsils, or lining of the mouth
- A sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
- Numbness of the tongue or other areas inside the mouth
- Jaw swelling
- Loosening teeth
- Jaw pain
- Persistent bad breath
If we find any suspicious lesions (lumps, bumps, or sores) in our exam, we usually opt to remove the growth and send it off to the lab for evaluation. Most of these growths prove to be benign, but if they are cancerous they key to treatment success is catching them early. That’s one of the reasons we ask our patients to be diligent about making their twice-yearly exams with us.