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Oral Cancer Warning Signs

What are the warning signs of oral cancer?

Early detection and treatment can make a big difference in the progression of the disease. Finding lesions early before they become cancerous could save your life, and the most likely person to discover them is your dentist. See your dentist if you notice any unusual lesions that don't go away. Don't wait till your regular checkup.

Oral cancer can develop in the lips, gums, and tongue, as well as the lining of the cheeks and the floor and roof of the mouth. Call your dentist or doctor right away if you notice any of the following:

  • White or red spots (or patches) on your tongue, gums, or any other tissues in your mouth
  • A sore or irritation in the mouth that bleeds easily and doesn't heal
  • Persistent tenderness, pain, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek
  • A thick, rough, or crusty spot, or a small area that looks like it's wearing away anywhere in the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, talking, or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
  • A change in your voice that isn't due to a cold or allergies
  • What can I do to help prevent oral cancer?

For starters, don't use tobacco. Whether you use cigarettes, pipes, cigars, "herbal" cigarettes, snuff, or chewing tobacco, you're at increased risk. Your risk is even higher if you add heavy drinking to the mix.

Excessive sun exposure may also increase your chances of developing cancer of the lips. Protect yourself with a hat or stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the rays are the strongest, and always use a lip balm with a sun block of SPF 15 or more. You can also help protect yourself from cancer in general by eating 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Finally, one of the best things you can do to prevent oral cancer is to visit your dentist regularly. They will examine your mouth for any suspicious skin changes. With the exception of Ear, Nose, and Throat specialists, dentists are likely to do a better job assessing oral lesions than most doctors.

Oral cancer is serious. Knowing the warning signs, having regular checkups, and limiting your risk, increase your chance of avoiding it altogether.

Healthy Tips


Alcohol can add hundreds of calories to your daily intake, which can make the difference between weight loss, maintaining your current weight, or gaining weight. A single glass of beer or wine can contain at least 100 calories. Having a few drinks 3-4 nights a week could be adding 1,000 unforeseen calories to your diet. Alcohol also acts as an appetite stimulant, and can lead you to eat or crave foods that are not within with your weight-loss plan. If you are dieting or are simply having trouble getting rid of that last little bit of fat, keep your alcohol intake to a minimum.