Whilst your dental practitioner will check your mouth thoroughly at each appointment, spotting mouth cancer in the early stages is very important and you can help by checking there are no changes or abnormalities to your mouth when you brush your teeth each day.
Oral cancer affects all areas of the mouth including:
- Lip and cheek tissue lining
- Mouth floor (under the tongue)
- Roof and palate
Your mouth, tongue and lips are covered with flat sells called squamous cells, and if you see any changes in these cells then visit your dentist to check all is well. This tissue is where most oral cancers originate, so you need to keep an eye on it.
Be aware that many anomalies occur all the time, and the time to seek help is if the issue persists after three weeks. Non-cancerous anomalies will heal and disappear within this time frame, potentially cancerous anomalies will remain without any apparent healing. Catching the sensitive skin of your mouth lining, gums tongue and lips on teeth or sharp foods will cause small injuries, but these heal quickly as your body repairs damage. With regular checking, it is possible to see these abnormalities before you feel them, as in the early stages mouth cancer is unlikely to cause pain.
We are all advised to regularly check our bodies for anomalies that may be a cause for concern, and your mouth should be added into this routine. Good oral health aside, the skin here should not be missed from your regular monitoring.
Here are a few things to look out for in your routine:
A patch appearing upon the skin of your tongue, lips, mouth, gums or tonsils is a cause for concern and should be monitored. White or red patches could potentially signify squamous cell carcinoma.
The skin texture changing to something that feels thicker or lumpy. Or ulcers and erosions that do not heal are all areas of concern.
The best way to check your mouth is to be in a well-lit room and use a magnifying mirror with a bright focussing light. Using clean hands, gently pull your tongue outwards an inspect underneath. Check the sides of your tongue, and then the insides of your cheek lining and around your gums. Curl your lips and check the insides and out.
Although it is always best to get any anomalies checked out quickly, it is not necessary to panic. Many anomalies can turn out to be benign but your dental practitioners’ professional opinion will decide whether there is anything to worry about.
Your routine dental check will highlight anything that your dentist feels might be concerning but it is up to you to keep an eye on your mouth in between checks. Cancer caught in the early stages can ensure the difference in the rate of survival, and if you spot a persistent issue that has not healed within three weeks then book an appointment to give you peace of mind.
For more information on spotting mouth cancer in the early stages, or to book an appointment for a free mouth cancer check please contact us here.
Mouth Cancer Action Month is held in November every year and is supported by the Mouth Cancer Foundation and the British Dental Health Foundation.