what are the signs of oral cancer

What Are the Signs of Oral Cancer?

This April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month and Lifetime Family Dental wants to help educate our patients and community about this common disease. Dentists are often the first to recognize the signs of oral cancer, and we’d like to bring attention to its prevention and treatment.

Oral cancer encompasses the many types of cancers that can develop anywhere inside your mouth or throat. With a survival rate of only five years, catching the early signs of oral cancer is essential for recovery. Anyone at risk should schedule regular oral cancer screenings and dental examinations.

Where Do the Signs of Oral Cancer Appear?

You should always take note of any significant changes in your overall health and discuss them with your doctor before they grow worse. Make sure to tell your dentist about any new changes inside your mouth so they can look for symptoms during your regular visit. 

Oral cancer can develop in the following areas of your mouth and throat:

  • Lips
  • Tongue
  • Inner cheek
  • Gums
  • Tonsils
  • Floor and roof of mouth
  • Hard and soft palate
  • Middle throat region

Signs of Oral Cancer

In order to receive the best treatment for oral cancer, early detection is key. When you attend a routine dental visit, your dentist will ask about any changes in your medical history. They will also ask if you are experiencing any new or unusual symptoms related to your mouth. 

Your dentist can tell if there are any signs of oral cancer in your mouth and recommend the best strategy for treatment. Oral cancer may result in any of the following symptoms:

  • A sore on or inside your mouth that won’t go away
  • Any type of lump or growth inside your mouth
  • Pain or tenderness of your lips, mouth, or tongue
  • Difficulty using your jaw or tongue (chewing, speaking, swallowing, etc.)
  • Red or white patches inside your mouth
  • Changes to the way your jaw bites down
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • Persistent sore throat

What Causes Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is caused by mutations to the cells that make up the tissue inside your mouth and throat. There are many different risk factors that can increase your chances of developing a type of mouth cancer. One of the risk factors is in fact gender—men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer. 

Other risk factors include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Being over the age of 40
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Weakened immune system


There is no way to guarantee prevention of mouth cancer but you can reduce your risk. One of the best ways to reduce the risk of oral cancer is to change high-risk habits. Having a poor diet, smoking tobacco, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol aren’t only bad for your overall health but also significantly increase your chances of developing oral cancer. 

You can also help reduce your risk by:

  • Getting the HPV vaccine
  • Avoiding excessive sun exposure to your lips
  • Visiting your dentist regularly for routine cleanings and exams

Protect Your Health with Lifetime Family Dental

Your dentist always examines your mouth when you come in for a teeth cleaning. Routine cleanings keep your mouth healthy and are a good opportunity for your dentist to catch the early signs of oral cancer and any other health concerns. Call us at Lifetime Family Dental to schedule an appointment today.

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (4/22/2021). Photo by Melissa Di Rocco on Unsplash