Keeping up with your regular dental cleanings and exams is the best way to check for oral cancers. Your general dentist will thoroughly examine your mouth, teeth, and gums for signs of cancer every six months. But do you know how you can detect oral cancer at home?
It’s true –– it’s easy to do self-check tests at home. Early detection is key to fighting any cancer, and the same is true of oral cancers. That’s why we’ve created a step-by-step guide to perform a self-examination.
Signs of Oral Cancers
Oral or mouth cancer refers to cancer that develops in any of the parts that make up the mouth, including the lips, gums, tongue, inner lining of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, or the floor of the mouth located under your tongue.
It’s important to know the signs of oral cancers. The sooner you detect cancer, you can get the treatment you need. Signs of oral cancer include the following:
- White, red, or any other discolored patches in the mouth
- Sores on the face or mouth that don’t heal within a week or two
- Lumps or swelling on the gums, lips, the roof of your mouth, or the insides of your cheeks
- Pain or numbness in any area of the mouth, face, or neck
- Repeatedly bleeding in the mouth that takes a long time to stop
Certain risk factors can put you at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. These risk factors include smoking or chewing tobacco, alcohol abuse, uv-ray exposure, and biting your cheeks or lips as a nervous habit. If you participate in any of these activities, be sure to talk to your dentist about how you can stop these habits and protect yourself from oral cancer.
Oral Cancer Self-Check Checklist
You don’t have to wait to see your dentist to check for signs of oral cancer –– you can perform a monthly self-check at home to help detect early warning signs.
Before you get started, make sure you have access to a mirror and good lighting. Be sure to wash your hands and follow these six steps to perform a thorough self-check:
- Lips – Check the outside and the insides of upper and lower lips for sores or changes in color. Press the lips to feel for bumps.
- Tongue – Inspect and touch the top, bottom, and sides of your tongue for swelling or lumps. Check for any changes in color or texture.
- The Roof of the Mouth – Use a finger to check for bumps on the roof of your mouth. Open wide and check for any color changes or sores.
- Face – Examine the skin and take note of any color changes, ulcers, or bumps.
- Cheeks – Look on the insides of your cheeks for sores or color changes. Press and squeeze your cheeks to check for tenderness or lumps.
- Neck – Lastly, use your fingers to press along the front and sides of your neck to feel for lumps or tenderness.
Following your self-check, be sure to make note of anything unusual and contact your dentist for an appointment. For more helpful tips on how you can detect oral cancer at home, visit the Mouth Cancer Foundation.
Self-checks are an excellent way to detect early signs of oral cancer, but remember that practicing good dental hygiene is also important. Brushing your teeth twice per day, flossing daily, and seeing your general dentist every six months for a dental exam is the best way to care for your mouth.
Our team of doctors here at Endodontic Specialists of Colorado specializes in restoring patients’ teeth and giving them healthy, beautiful smiles. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation and learn how we can help give you a smile that lasts a lifetime!