Oral cancer, sometimes referred to as mouth cancer, refers to cancerous cells that develop in any part of the mouth. This includes the lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, and the roof and floor of the mouth. According to the nonprofit Oral Cancer Foundation, it is estimated that 132 new individuals are diagnosed with oral cancer every day. Like other cancers, early detection and treatment are key to surviving this disease.

Oral cancer is categorized by a group of cancers called head and neck cancer. Patients will often be referred to an Ear-Nose-and-Throat (ENT) Doctor or an otolaryngologist for specialized care and examination.

However, your dentist should actually be your first contact if you think you’re showing signs or symptoms of mouth cancer. A dentist can look for signs of other infections, and will be able to refer you to an ENT specialist when it is necessary.

Common signs of mouth cancer include:

  • Unexplained pain, bleeding, or numbness in the mouth or neck
  • Persistent swelling, lumps, or sores in the mouth that take too long to heal
  • Jaw pain or stiffness, difficulty chewing or eating
  • Difficulty swallowing or unexplained pain the throat
  • Unexplained teeth shifting
  • Ear pain but no ear infection

Some common symptoms of oral cancer may look a lot like other oral infections and periodontal diseases. It’s important to see your dentist before making any assumptions.

Almost anyone is at risk for oral cancer, but there are things you can avoid to lower your chances of getting it:

  • Stop smoking: Research shows that tobacco use and even vaping increases your risk of getting cancer.
  • Limit alcohol intake: Studies have determined a strong link between drinking alcohol and being diagnosed with cancer.
  • Get tested for the human papillomavirus: HPV is a known risk factor.
  • Limit sun exposure: Your lips tend to get hit by UV rays often, so consider wearing lip balm with sun protection.
  • See your dentist often: It’s important to catch cancer at an early stage in order to effectively treat it, so make regular appointments with your dentist who can monitor your symptoms and look for early signs of the disease.

Book your appointment with our Long Beach dentistry today and get more information about prevention and treatment of oral cancer and other periodontal diseases. Use our online system here or call us at 562-434-6414. Dr. Coates and his team look are dedicated to your health & beauty!