I’m a dentist – here are four red flag signs of mouth cancer to spot

Mouth cancer: What are the causes and symptoms?

Many of us are aware of the importance of looking after our teeth and gums to prevent issues such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Part of this involves regular brushing and flossing, as well as check-ups with your dentist.

But an expert has warned we should also be checking our mouths regularly at home, for any signs of a deadly disease.

According to Dr Parneet Sehmi, principal dentist at Hermes London Dental Clinic, there are four red flag signs of mouth cancer that are easy to spot with a “quick self-check”.

His advice comes as a report in 2020 showed that cases of mouth cancer have “more than doubled” within one generation.

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The findings, by the Oral Health Foundation showed that 8,722 people in the UK were diagnosed with the disease in 2019, increasing by 97 percent since 2000.

Speaking to Express.co.uk , Dr Sehmi said: “Mouth cancer can affect anyone and as a disease, it can present itself in a number of different ways.

“That is why I am urging people to know about the signs and symptoms, as the sooner it is spotted, the higher the chance there is of beating this devastating disease.

“People must have regular dental visits and ensure they are doing self-checks at home.

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“If you do notice anything unusual in or around your mouth, head, and neck, it is vital you book a dentist appointment and get it checked as soon as possible.”

A mouth ulcer that does not heal

Mouth cancer can start in different parts of the mouth, including the lips, salivary glands, tongue, gums, palate, and inside of the cheeks, and can be subtle to begin with.

One of the most common symptoms is a mouth ulcer which does not heal within three weeks, which may appear as a painful sore or lesion within the mouth.

Dr Sehmi advised: “It can be easy to confuse an ulcer with other illness-related reasons but if you notice it hasn’t healed within three weeks, I recommend getting it checked by either your dentist or GP – especially if you regularly smoke or drink alcohol.”

White or red patches

These patches may vary in size and texture, and while not all are cancerous, some can be early indicators of mouth cancer.

Dr Sehmi recommended consulting a dentist if you notice these patches, as they could be a result of various factors.

Unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, head, or neck

According to Dr Sehmi, these lumps can vary in size and may or may not be painful.

“As it could be the result of various causes, a professional evaluation is essential to rule out mouth cancer and start appropriate treatment,” he said.

Persistent hoarseness and changes in speech

If you have noticed a persistent change in the tone and quality of your voice for more than three weeks, or are having difficulty speaking or swallowing, this should not be ignored.

Dr Sehmi added: “While it could likely be the result of a different illness, such as a cold, it is important to get it checked nonetheless to ensure that it isn’t mouth cancer.”

How to check for mouth cancer

Check you can fully open your mouth without any difficulty, then do a thorough check of your whole mouth, including the tongue as well as the roof and floor of your mouth, gums, and lips.

Feel for any new swellings, check for any moles and spots which have grown, become hard, or started to bleed, and if there are any changes to the colour or texture of the skin.

Dr Sehmi advised: “Ensure you do a self-examination at least once a month, even if you do not have any discomfort, as the earlier mouth cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.”

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