The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. The gums (giniva) is more pink and surrounds the necks of the teeth and is more resistant to tooth brush abrasion and recession. Any alteration in this appearance of the mucosa or giniva could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs of the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:
- Reddish patches (erythroplakia) 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 painful swallowing.
These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, and gingival 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.
We would recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly and remember that your mouth is one of your body's most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores. If ever in doubt, please contact us.