What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer, or mouth cancer is a type of cancer that may occur on any of the soft tissues of the mouth. These tissues may include the tongue, lips, cheeks, gums, palate, floor of the mouth, the tonsils or even the salivary glands.

It is important to note that in the early stages of these cancers, patients do not experience any pain. This means that often patients do not seek help until the cancer is already in an advanced stage. Patients that are at higher risk of developing oral cancer are:

  • Any tobacco use including smoking and use of snuff
  • Regularly drinking a lot of alcohol
  • Having a history of oral cancer
  • Regular exposure to the sun
  • Exposure to some viruses for example HPV ( This is an STD)
  • Chewing betel quid

There are some signs that patients can look out for, these include:

  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • A lump in the mouth, throat or lips
  • A white or red patch in the mouth
  • A sore or ulcer that does not heal, or bleeds
  • Pain or tenderness in the mouth

These signs are often missed by patients or noticed when the cancer is already advanced. It is therefore extremely important to see your dentist every 6 months for your routine check-up as well as a screening of the soft tissues in your mouth to ensure early diagnosis and a higher chance of the cancer being cured.

During screening by your dentist the following tissues will be examined thoroughly for any signs of abnormality:

  • Your lips, both outside and inside
  • Your gums
  • Your tongue, from all sides and underneath
  • The insides of your cheeks
  • The roof of your mouth
  • The back of your throat
  • If you wear dentures, you’ll have to take them out so he can check the tissue beneath them.
  • The dentist might put one finger in your mouth under your tongue and couple of fingers on the skin under your chin and move them around to feel the tissue between them.
  • Your dentist might also feel underneath your jaw

This is a very simple and quick process that can save your life. Please make your appointment with your dentist today!