Oral Cancer – another reason to have regular check ups

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Everyone knows that your six-monthly checkup and cleaning with the dentist is recommended best practice to maintain good oral health.  A healthy mouth and teeth are important to your overall good health too.

Not to be alarmist, but what you may not realize is that as part of your routine dental examination your dentist screens for oral cancers.  Regular oral examination of the entire mouth is essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions. You may have a very small, but dangerous, oral spot or sore and not be aware of it.

A thorough examination inside your mouth and tongue will be conducted and some patients might notice a flat and painless white or red spots. While some are harmless, few others are not and only proper evalutation and testing can tell them apart.

While oral cancers are most often discovered in people over the age of 40, it is now occurring more frequently in those under this age.  And while this cancer used to affect more men than women at the rate of 6:1, that ratio has reduced to 2:1, most probably linked to lifestyle choices. HPV16 – the human papilloma virus is conclusively implicated on the rise in numbers of young, non-smoking patients. Research is suggesting that in people under the age of 50 HPV16 may be replacing tobacco as the primary causative agent in the initiation of the disease process.

Prevention and Detection

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco (both cigarette and chewing tobacco).  Tobacco use together with alcohol has been shown to greatly increase the risk of oral cancer.

With so many benign tissue changes that occur in the mouth that resembles the look of a dangerous tissue change, it is crucial to examine any discoloration or sore in your mouth that does not heal in 14 days by qualified professionals.


  • Any white/ red spot or sore in the mouth might be a sign of oral cancer.
  • It can affect gum tissues, lips, check lining, tongue and the soft/ hard palate.

Other signs include:

  • A bleeding sore that does not heal
  • A discoloration of oral tissues
  • A thickening, rough spot or a lump, small eroded area anywhere in the mouth.
  • Numbness, tenderness or pain on the lips or mouth
  • Difficulty or experience pain in the moving jaw or tongue while chewing, speaking, swallowing or simply by moving them
  • A lump or mass which can be felt inside the mouth/ neck
  • Hoarseness that does not go away after some time
  • Any numbness in the oral/facial region.
  • A change in the way the teeth fit together
  • Prolonged exposure under the sun can increase the risk of lip cancer
  • Oral cancer can happen to anyone, regardless if you a smoker or non-smoker.

Studies suggest that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may prevent the development of potentially cancerous lesions.  And of course … see your dentist regularly for your check-up.