Oral Cancer Exam

The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 40,000 people in the United States alone will be diagnosed with mouth or throat cancer annually. About 8,000 people will die of the disease. The good news is that oral cancer can easily be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam and effectively treated when discovered in its earliest stages.

Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs and symptoms may not be readily noticeable. That is why having oral cancer examinations in my office on a regular basis is so crucial. Oral cancers can be of varied types and may originate in the mouth or may have spread (metastized) from other parts of the body. The most common type of oral cancer is the malignant squamous cell carcinoma which typically originates in the lip and mouth tissues.

The oral cavity includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, front part of your tongue, floor of the mouth beneath the tongue and the hard palate that makes up the roof of your mouth. The throat (oropharynx) starts at the soft part of the roof of your mouth and continues back to your  throat. It includes the back section of your tongue as well as the base where the tongue attaches to the floor of your mouth.

During your dental visit, either my dental hygienist or I will thoroughly review your health history and examine these areas for signs of mouth and/or throat cancer. Regular preventive care visits to my office are necessary to improve the chances that any suspicious changes in your oral health will be caught early, at a time when cancer can be treated more easily.

Signs and symptoms of mouth or throat cancer:

  • Unhealing sores on the back or side of the tongue
  • Sores that bleed easily or do not heal
  • A thick or hard spot or lump
  • A roughened or crusted area
  • Numbness, pain, or tenderness in an area
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down

Be sure to alert us to any of the above or any problems you have when chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your tongue or jaw.