Each April, in congruence with Oral Cancer Awareness Month, the Surf City Dental team focuses on educating our patients in how to detect cancer of the mouth. Projected to affect approximately 54,000 Americans this year, the condition is often more common than people realize. However, with the right knowledge and a commitment to monthly screenings, you can stop oral cancer in its tracks!

Early detection is key to successfully treating this type of cancer. Your Surf City Dental hygienist will check you for signs and symptoms of this mouth disease at each cleaning, but you should also perform at-home inspections.

Ideally, everyone over the age of 16 should execute an oral cancer self-screening at least once a month. Do it right after you’ve flossed and brushed, when your mouth is clean. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it could save your life!

Your At-Home Oral Cancer Exam

Checking yourself for symptoms is easy once you know what to do. The following Surf City Dental procedure is simple and quick, but will provide you with a thorough method for detecting warning signs.

Start With The Right Environment
You only need a few things to perform your self-exam: your fingers, a mirror, and lots of light. Since you’ll be using your fingertips to feel the inside of your mouth, be sure to wash your hands well before beginning.

You’ll also want to remove anything that blocks surfaces on the interior of your mouth, like dentures or retainers. Once you take out items that could get in the way, position yourself in front of a mirror in a well-lit room and you’re ready to go!

Step-By-Step Self-Assessment
To start, look into the mirror and examine your entire face. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are there areas that have unusual swelling or lumps?
  • Do I notice changes in my skin’s tone or texture?
  • Have any moles become enlarged or started to itch or bleed?

Then, stretch your head from side to side, pulling the skin taught over your muscles. Do you see any unusual lumps or inconsistencies from one side of your face to the other? Next, face forward and feel both sides of your neck and lower jaw line with your fingertips, checking for enlarged lymph nodes and bumps.

Now, you’re ready to inspect the inside of your mouth. As you perform your examination, look for abnormalities in skin and tissue texture, white or red spots, and unusual lumps or growths. Let’s get started:

  1. Examine the inside surfaces of your lips, pulling your lower lip down and your top lip upwards.
  2. Applying gentle pressure, run your index finger along the entire length of your gum line, checking both the front and back sides. Perform the same process on your top gums.
  3. Check the floor and roof of your mouth. Lift your tongue to inspect for tissue discolorations, then run your fingers along the floor to check for growths. Tilt your head back and apply the same routine to the roof of your mouth.
  4. One side at a time, pull your cheeks out and inspect them for issues.
  5. Finally, stick out your tongue and examine all of its surfaces. Be sure to check its underside as well.

Additional Signs Of Oral Cancer
While it’s normal to deal with ulcers, burns, and accidental injuries to your mouth (like biting your cheek or tongue) most of these will heal in two to three weeks. If you have sores that won’t heal and/or bleed easily, however, they could suggest the presence of cancer. Difficulty chewing or swallowing, and chronic sore throats and hoarseness can indicate a problem as well.

I Found An Abnormality — Now What?

First of all, don’t panic! When caught early, oral cancer is very treatable. If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above or found an issue during your self-assessment, schedule an appointment with your Surf City dentist. Our expert team will perform our own thorough examination and recommend the next steps.

A few minutes a month is all it takes to be proactive about mouth cancer. Those few moments, however, are extremely important to your dental health and overall wellbeing! This Oral Cancer Awareness month, commit to making at-home assessments a normal part of your routine. It’s a small action that will bring you tons of peace of mind!