November is Mouth Cancer Action Month, and as dental professionals we feel a responsibility to share with you how to keep yourself safe and informed. We don’t just look after your teeth and gums, but we also keep a keen eye out for any changes in your mouth. Mouth cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world and accounts for approximately 2% of the cancers diagnosed in the UK. Early detection is crucial to treating the disease, and it already has impressive survival odds at 9 out of 10 cases. However, for you to spot the changes in your mouth you first need to know what to spot, so we’re going to share with you what changes you should be looking out for.
Spotting changes in your mouth
Checking your month once or twice a month in the mirror could provide you with enough opportunities to spot any signs of mouth cancer in their earliest stages. It can appear in almost all of the soft tissues in your mouth, including your lips, gums, cheeks, and tongue. There are three main signs of mouth cancer that include a mouth ulcer that doesn’t heal after three weeks, light, dark, or red discolouration, or newly developed lumps. These are all the early warning signs of mouth cancer and, should you discover these, you should seek a medical opinion as soon as you can.
How to check your mouth for the signs of mouth cancer
Head and neck – Begin with checking your head and neck. Because tumours could form in your lymph glands, saliva glands, and windpipe, this is the first place we should begin our checks. Feel for any lumps or swellings that appear on one side of your neck but not the other and press along the sides and front to feel for bumps and tenderness.
Lips – In front of a mirror, pull down your bottom lip to check for any signs or soreness, ulcers, lumps, or discolouration. Use a thumb and finger to massage and roll the lip in order to detect any bumps or changes in texture. Then repeat this same procedure with your upper lip.
Cheeks – Pull your cheek to one side so that you can see its inside wall in the mirror. Have a look for any discolouration and then pinch your cheek using a forefinger and thumb. Gently roll, squeeze, and massage the cheek to check for any lumps and bumps, tenderness, or ulcers. Repeat this process on your other cheek, too.
Tongue – Stick out your tongue and check both sides of it in the mirror. Search for swellings, lumps, or changes in colour. Then, stick your tongue out flat and check the surface for changes in texture or colour. Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and check its underside for the same signs.
Floor of your mouth – Press your finger along the floor of your mouth and the underside of your tongue. Take note of any swelling, lumps, dark or light patches, and ulcers.
Roof of your mouth – You will need a dentist’s assistance with this part of the check, but you should still carry out the parts that you can routinely at home. When with your dentist, open your mouth wide and tilt your head back. Your dentist will then perform the necessary checks for lumps, discolouration and changes to the roof of your mouth.
Your dentist is there to protect your mouth’s health, which inevitably protects your general health too. Mouth cancer already has a very high survival rate, but early detection is crucial to bettering these odds. Speak to our dental team in today if you’re considering a check-up or have any questions regarding your dental health. Book an appointment with our dentist in Clapham, enquire online or call 020 7622 5333 today.