Would you be able to recognise the signs of mouth cancer?

mouth cancer

The statistics are telling us that mouth cancer is on the rise. ☹️

In Australia, around 4000 new cases are diagnosed each year.  Even in our Taree dental practice, I see several cases a year.

Mouth cancer can go un-noticed in its early stages – so recognising the signs and early detection are vital.  The good news is that oral cancers are extremely survivable if they’re caught early.

Education is key.

✔️ What is mouth cancer?

Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, describes all cancers that start in and around the mouth. It most commonly occurs on the lips, tongue and floor of the mouth but can also start in the cheeks, gums, the roof of the mouth, the tonsils and even the salivary glands.

It occurs more frequently in men than women and is most likely to strike you if you are over 40 years of age.

A key thing is to be aware of any changes that you notice in your mouth. If you are suspicious of anything new, even an ulcer that doesn’t seem to heal – then take action, pick up the phone and call us immediately.

Early detection is life-saving!!!

✔️ What are some causes of mouth cancer?

No surprises here but the main risk factors for mouth cancer are tobacco and alcohol consumption.   A staggering 59% of mouth cancers in Australia are caused by smoking, and about 31% are caused by excess alcohol consumption.

Other risk factors include a family history of mouth cancers, poor oral hygiene and gum disease, and exposure to the sun and harsh UV rays.  ️

However, if you don’t drink, don’t smoke and avoid the sun, you still need to be aware.  I once had a patient, a female in her late 30s, non-drinker, non-smoker, who unluckily was diagnosed with mouth cancer.  I am happy to report she’s fine now but her treatment was pretty rugged.  Her warning sign was a mouth ulcer that she’d had for over 6 months which just wouldn’t go away.

✔️ What are the symptoms?

Discovering oral cancer in its earliest stages definitely lessens the severity of the treatment and the impact long term.

It often begins with some pretty recognizable symptoms – but not always.  Sometimes the symptoms can seem pretty benign, like a little white spot or red spot in your mouth which you don’t think much about because it doesn’t bleed or doesn’t cause any pain.

Here are some more common symptoms that you should keep an eye out for :

  • A sore on the lips, gums, or inside of your mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal
  • A lump or thickening in the cheek that you can feel with your tongue
  • Loss of feeling or numbness in any part of your mouth
  • White or red patches on the gums, tongue or inside of mouth
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing food
  • Pain and tenderness.


People who ignore the symptoms or do not seek the help of a professional, risk the cancer advancing to a more serious stage. So if you have any of these symptoms PLEASE do not ignore them – come and see us.

Because most people simply don’t routinely self-check for oral cancer, dentists are usually the first line of defence when it comes to detecting it.

That is also another reason why regular dental check-ups are so important.

If we happen to notice any abnormalities during your checkup at Taree Dental Care, we will be straight onto it.  And we might refer you to a specialist for additional tests to confirm any diagnosis.

✔️ How can we prevent mouth cancer?

As we already mentioned, a staggering 59% of mouth cancers in Australia are caused by smoking and around 31% are caused by excessive alcohol consumption. So, I will save you the lecture……but quitting smoking and moderating alcohol consumption will significantly reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer.

Cancers of the lip are commonly associated with UV exposure, so it is also important to protect yourself from the sun when the UV is high.  Use sunscreen on your lips – and remember your kids too!

So, be aware of all the signs. If you notice any changes, don’t muck around, act now. 

Come and see us at Taree Dental Care for a regular check-up, we can have a chat about any of your oral concerns and make sure your mouth stays as healthy as possible.

Remember, your mouth and teeth are way too precious to neglect.

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