The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer.
The following can be signs at the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:
Reddish patches (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth
A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face and/or neck. Pain does not always occur with pathology and, curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.
If you do not visit the dentist regularly, you are putting yourself at risk. Currently only half of all patients diagnosed with oral cancer survive more than five years, as most conditions are diagnosed in late stages. Regular dental check-ups, including an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions. You may have a very small, but dangerous, oral spot or sore and not be aware of it!