What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

Posted Aug 2nd, 2018

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

Did you know that oral cancer is on the rise in the Western Hemisphere? While it may be associated with genetic disposition, the majority of cases are due to our everyday lifestyle habits, such as smoking tobacco products.


However, early detection in the dental office may significantly decrease the risk of rapid spread and minimal intervention may be needed to prevent further complications and a life threatening diagnosis. Early signs and symptoms in the mouth can often be seen by a general dentist, so our patients will become more aware of any pre-existing conditions. At Deer Valley Dental Care, our dentists in Calgary will examine and screen you for oral cancer.

Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Oral cancer signs can occur in certain parts of the mouth including the lips (quite common, as this area is constantly exposed to sunlight), the floor of the mouth, the soft palate, the hard palate, cheeks, tongue, gums, throat and even our sinuses. Oral cancer normally appears as a growth or sore that doesn’t heal over time and may actually grow in size and shape if not treated at an early stage. If left untreated, the spread can cause severe destruction to surrounding facial structures as well. However, there are many signs to look out for if you think you may have the beginning of oral cancer. Here are a few examples:

Small ulceration or lesions on the upper or lower lips and parts of the mouth. Lesions can differ in size or shape but are usually red or white in color; red lesions being a little more common than white. The sores can be presented painlessly sometimes in the initial stages or can be extremely painful as the mouth is a constant habitat of saliva, bacteria and chewing.

Lumps or patches in the mouth and cheek.  A thickening, lump or swelling in the gums with continued growth over time may be a sign of oral cancer. This symptom may cause pain and difficulty closing the mouth completely. Any swelling of the face over time may be an indication that something else is happening with the gum tissue. In this case, you should be seen by a dentist as soon as possible.

Dysphagia – also known as difficulty swallowing. Sometimes, if there is cancer in the throat, problems with swallowing and breathing may occur.

Tingling sensation or burning/ numbness in the mouth or chin area. If you experience a burning, numbness or tingling sensation in the oral cavity or chin area that doesn’t seem to go away, then it is advised to seek advice from your dentist as these may be symptoms of an underlying condition.

Affected speech. Sometimes, cancers related to the tongue, lips, or soft palate may alter the way you speak and pronounce words. This can be an indication of an early stage of oral cancer.

Missing or losing teeth. If for no apparent reason your teeth start falling out or become loose, and there are no symptoms of gum disease, this maybe an early sign of oral cancer, as the bone structure around the teeth may be compromised, causing your teeth to fall out. Even if you wear dentures and suddenly the dentures don’t feel right or fit properly, this may be an indication that something else may be happening in the mouth.

General pain and swelling in the mouth and jaw region. Persistent pain and swelling in the mouth/jaw is not something to ignore. If pain in these areas lasts for more than three weeks and the pain shoots to your ear, please see your dentist immediately.

Hoarseness and sore throat. Both are signs of early detection of oral cancers, as the mouth becomes dry due to reduced saliva flow and your voice may sound a bit husky or even quieter than it used to be. If you are concerned about a constant sore throat and hoarse voice that is unusual, you’re your dentist immediately.

Bad breath. Bad breath can be an early indicator of disease in the body. If your bad breath is present due to improper care for your teeth and gums by brushing, flossing and mouthwash, then the problem lies deeper within the mouth. If oral hygiene is not the problem, and you are prone to mouth sores, then there may be a connection to oral cancer.

Rapid weight loss. Another symptom of oral cancers may be rapid weight loss. When there is pain in the mouth, it may be hard to chew or swallow. The tongue becomes inflamed and it is hard to chew solid foods. Weight loss may persist as calorie intake may become less than it should be.

Early detection is key. Don’t wait if you have what may be symptoms or signs of oral cancer.

If you think something is abnormal, pop into our office. Our Calgary dentists are always happy to help. Otherwise, regular check-ups will give our dentists the opportunity to perform regular oral cancer screenings and assist in reducing the risk of potential oral cancers in the future.


Contact our office to schedule your oral cancer screening today!

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