Ask a Dentist

May 14, 2020

Q: What is oral cancer?

Woman sticking out her tongue, wearing red lipstick and some of her teeth are showing

April is Oral Cancer Awareness month. Oral cancer, or mouth cancer or oral cavity cancer, affects more than 5,000 Canadians every year. Oral cancer starts in the cells of the mouth as a malignant tumour (group of cancer cells) which destroys the healthy cells around it. 

Oral cancer, or mouth cancer, can develop in any part of the mouth, including:

  • Lips
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • Inner lining of the cheek
  • Roof of the mouth
  • Floor of the mouth (under the tongue)

Signs and symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • White or reddish patch inside the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • A lump or growth inside the mouth
  • Persistent mouth pain
  • Persistent ear pain
  • Difficulty swallowing or painful swallowing

If you have any of these symptoms, book an appointment to see your dentist. Your dentist will most likely investigate other potential causes that are more common than cancer, such as an infection or abscess.

To prevent oral cancer, stop or don’t start using tobacco, drink alcohol in moderation, use chapstick with sunscreen and visit your dentist regularly. If you haven’t had your dental appointment in more than six months, book your next appointment today at either of our Winnipeg dental clinics.