The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following signs may indicate a pathologic process or cancerous growth that should be evaluated by your dentist, doctor or oral surgeon:
- Reddish patches (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth.
- A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily.
- A lump or thickening of the skin lining on the inside of the mouth.
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness. Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.
- Loss of sensation (numbness) to the skin of your face, mouth or tongue.
- A gradual change in your bite so that your teeth no longer fit together. This may be accompanied by a swelling or growth in your jaw bone.
- A gradual swelling or change in facial appearance
- A lump or mass in the neck which is growing, firm and fails to resolve within two weeks.
These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology, and curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.
We recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly and scheduling regular six month check-ups with your dentist. Remember that your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. If you or your dentist believe a suspicious lesion requires further investigation we will be happy to participate in your care.