How to detect oral cancer

About 51,540 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in 2018. Those numbers are staggering, but routine visits to the dentist can help. Because dentists may be able to detect oral cancer early, they can significantly improve the chances for successful treatment and provide greater treatment options.

There are easy steps you can take to prevent oral cancer, like doing a self-exam at home, limiting alcohol intake and not smoking or using other tobacco products. The American Cancer Society recommends doing a self-check about once a month. Simply use a mirror to get a good view of your mouth and take note of any issues.

If you notice any potential signs of oral cancer, let your dentist know.

Oral cancer indicators

Your dental hygienist and dentist will look for signs and symptoms of oral cancer when they perform a regular checkup.

Common indicators include:

• White or red patches in your mouth

• A sore that won’t heal

• Loose teeth

• Difficulty or pain when swallowing

• Difficulty wearing dentures

• A lump in your neck or cheek

• Pain in the mouth that doesn’t go away