Early Warning Signs of Oral Cancer

Photo of oral cancer screening procedure

Cancer occurs when the DNA in your cells mutate. With oral cancer, these mutations can develop in any part of the mouth. This includes your lips, gums, tongue, under your tongue, the roof of your mouth, and the inside of your cheeks. Like all cancer, oral cancer is scary. That’s why it’s important to recognize symptoms and catch it quickly. Dr. Z and Dr. D. screen for oral cancer as part of your regular preventive exams but here are some common warning signs you can watch for on your own.

White or Red Patches

White or red patches are a sign that you should get your mouth checked out. These patches can be on your tongue, gums, or cheek lining.

Mouth Sores

Sores and lesions that don’t heal are a very common symptom. Be aware of any irritations or tender spots in your mouth or throat. In general, if sores don’t heal after two weeks, it’s time to go see a dentist.

Numbness or Pain

If you feel numbness, tenderness, or pain in any part of your mouth, it’s a sign that something might be wrong. Another potential sign of oral cancer is ear pain that doesn’t affect your hearing.


Swelling or lumps anywhere in your mouth or around your throat are other symptoms to watch out for. If you wear dentures, swelling in your jaw can make them uncomfortable, so be aware of how they fit.

Trouble Swallowing

If you start to have trouble swallowing or moving your jaw and tongue to speak or eat, please contact us. It can sometimes feel as if you have something caught in your throat or as if your throat has become thick.

Preventive Care at Willow Smiles Dentistry

If you have any of these symptoms, come into our Puyallup office. Oral cancer in its earliest stage doesn’t always have symptoms you’ll notice, but an exam can help us identify any signs. Contact us today if you have any questions or want to set up an appointment!

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