Oral cancer is not uncommon — about 50,000 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer every year. But there’s no need to panic! Learning how to identify early oral cancer signs can save your life and the lives of your loved ones.

Risk factors for oral cancer

Knowing how to recognize oral cancer and performing self-examinations at home is crucial, especially if you:

  • Smoke and/or consume alcohol heavily
  • Are over 50 years old
  • Have the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Experience excessive sun exposure
  • Have a family history of cancer
  • Don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables

Keeping up with your dental checkups will also help diagnose oral cancer on time, as your dentist will be able to identify any warning signs even before you notice them. If you are in Corvallis and are worried about this or any other oral problem, our team at Timberhill Dental can help keep your mouth and body healthy! Call: (541) 754-0144.

How to identify oral cancer signs

1. Watch out for the symptoms

Like other types of cancer, mouth cancer is often silent. But there are some signs you should be aware of, such as:

  • Red or white spots
  • Ulcers or sores that don’t heal after a few weeks
  • Persistent pain or irritation
  • Numbness or tenderness
  • Unusual lumps or textures
  • Loose teeth or unexplained tooth loss
  • Difficult swallowing

If any or some of these symptoms persist for over 2 weeks, it’s time to see your dentist. At Timberhill Dental, we can diagnose oral cancer early and guide you toward the next steps.

2. Check your mouth and neck

Periodic self-examinations are a great way to identify any warning signs on time. Just 2 minutes a month can make a difference in your health! To check for any signs of oral cancer in your mouth (or the mouth of a loved one), follow these 10 steps:

  1. Brush and floss your teeth before the examination.
  2. Seek a well-lighted room and place yourself in front of a mirror.
  3. Check your lips, inside and out. Look for any unusual textures or sores.
  4. Examine your teeth and gums with your jaws closed. Then, do so with your jaws open.
  5. Look at the inner side of your cheeks. Identify if there are any ulcers or unusual spots.
  6. Check your tongue. Look at both sides (you can use a small mirror if you have one).
  7. Lift the tip of the tongue towards the roof of the mouth and the sides, looking at the edges and the lower part.
  8. Hold the tip of your tongue using a tissue or a piece of gauze. Take a look at all the surfaces.
  9. Put your head back. Look at the palate to identify any changes of color and use your finger to identify any lumps.
  10. Finally, feel your neck and lower jaw using your hands. Look for lumps or any strange growths.

If you find any unusual sores, changes of color, dark spots, or lumps don’t worry — you have already taken an important step toward an early diagnosis. Seek professional help as soon as possible to get the care that you need!

3. Visit your dentist twice a year

Visiting your dentist regularly doesn’t only help you keep your teeth shiny and strong — it also helps you prevent a wide range of issues, including mouth cancer. As experts in oral health, dentists are trained to detect any sign of oral disease.

At Timberhill Dental, we perform oral cancer screenings every time our patients come to their routine visits. Using VELscope®, our dentists are able to identify abnormal growths and changes before they are even visible.

Just like at-home self-examinations, VELscope® cancer screenings at our office take only 2 minutes, and the results are immediate. This system is fast, non-invasive, harmless, and pain-free.

If you are worried about oral cancer or any other oral issue, talk to your dentist. They will address all your concerns and help you identify if there’s something going on in your mouth.

How to prevent oral cancer?

You’ve already taken the first step to preventing oral cancer, which is learning how to identify it!

As mentioned, heavy tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for oral cancer (for most cancers). So if you smoke, the most important thing that you need to do is quit.

Other actions you should take to prevent oral cancer:

  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption
  • Maintain good oral hygiene
  • Don’t skip your routine visits to the dentist
  • Perform self-check-ups at least once a month

We can help you stay healthy

Whether you have any worrying signs or want to prevent any oral issues before they occur, our team at Timberhill Dental is here for you. We believe that a healthy mouth is key to a healthy body, and our goal is to help you lead a long and healthy life.

If you have any other questions about oral health, schedule your appointment at Timberhill Dental today by calling (541) 754-0144 or by contacting our office online.