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Signs of Oral Cancer | United Concordia

Common Dental Questions

Signs of Oral Cancer



What are the signs of oral cancer?



Oral cancer most frequently appears on the floor of the mouth or on the tongue. Cancer of the gum tissue is much less common.


Symptoms include: 

  • Red and/or white area or a sore that does not heal
  • Swelling of the jaw
  • Stiffness of the jaw or neck
  • A lump or thickening on the neck, lips, gums or in the mouth
  • Unexplained loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit properly
  • A change in the voice or hoarseness
  • A feeling that something is caught in the mouth or throat


How common is oral cancer?

There are more than 34,000 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed every year. The majority of cases appear in people over the age of 50, but a growing number of people under the age of 40 are being diagnosed. Oral cancer affects almost twice as many men as women. In the United States, oral cancer is seen most often in African American men.


Risk factors:

  • Tobacco and alcohol use significantly increases your risk
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
  • Ultraviolet light exposure from the sun or tanning beds (increases the risk of lip cancer)
  • Poor nutrition caused by a diet deficient in fruits and vegetables
  • Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Previous radiation exposure to the head and neck
  • A history of cancer of the mouth, head and neck 
  • Chewing Betel Nut (areca nuts wrapped in a betel leaf chewed by many people in Southeast/Southern Asia)


Early detection of oral cancer is essential for successful treatment. A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose oral cancer. Treatment usually involves surgery, but radiotherapy, chemotherapy and drug therapy may be used in conjunction with surgery.


What can I do?

Reduce your risks by limiting your exposure to the risk factors listed above. And it’s critical to see your dentist regularly, so your dentist can complete a oral cancer screening.