As family dentists, we understand that oral cancer screenings and cancers of the mouth might sound scary to some, which is why we’re breaking it all down in this blog post. As it turns out, oral cancer screenings are nothing more than a simple inspection of your mouth, tongue, and gums for any indication of oral cancer. This is included in your general dentistry check up as a proactive measure to ensure that no signs or symptoms or oral cancer are going unnoticed or untreated.

At Trillium Dental in Ottawa, we provide each and every one of our patients with comprehensive dental care, from routine teeth cleanings to cosmetic, restorative, and sedation dentistry procedures. For us, this means taking all the preventative measures we can to reduce your risk of developing oral health problems like gum disease, cavities, jawbone deterioration, and oral cancer. That being said, here is what you need to know about the signs and symptoms of oral cancer.


The troubling thing about oral cancer is that it can develop without causing the person any pain or discomfort, meaning that it can go unnoticed for quite some time. Given that oral cancer takes the form of small white or red patches, it can be misconstrued as cold sores or canker sores, leading some people to believe that it will eventually go away on its own. Experienced dentists and dental hygienists will be able to identify these patches as oral cancer, so it is incredibly important to schedule regular appointments at your local dental clinic where they can inspect your mouth for signs of the disease.


Once oral cancer progresses, the signs and symptoms will become more clear. Indications of oral cancer include:

  • Patches — One of the first signs of oral cancer is the emergence of small white and red patches along the inside of the mouth. These patches can form anywhere in the oral cavity, but the most common areas are the inside of the lips, the cheek tissue, the front of the tongue, the floor and roof of the mouth, the tonsils, and along the gumline.
  • Mouth sores — Once oral cancer starts to form, it can develop into visible mouth sores that sting to the touch (also known as mouth ulcers).
  • Swelling — Unlike the kind of swelling that happens when you bite your cheek or tongue, swelling from oral cancer can last for weeks or even months.
  • Lumps — Sometimes, oral cancer takes the form of lumps in the oral tissue or thickened lining of the mouth.
  • Loose teeth — Given that oral cancer attacks the mouth and surrounding structures, the gumline can become weak, causing teeth to become loose or fall out in more advanced stages.
  • Pain — Victims of oral cancer will experience painful chewing, tongue and jaw pain, a sore throat, discomfort when swallowing, and persistent pain in the back of the neck or ears.


As with other types of cancer, everyone is at a different risk of developing oral cancer. While some genetic factors and syndromes are at play, the oral disease is highly linked to specific genders and ages, as well as lifestyle choices. Some of the factors that put people at a higher risk of developing oral cancer are:

  • Being a man — Unfortunately, men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer, according to WebMD, the American Cancer Society, and other medical sources. While the reason for this is still being debated, it is believed that as a group, men are more likely to consume tobacco and alcohol.
  • Age — According to Cancer Treatment Centers Of America®, the average age of patients diagnosed with oral cancer is 62, and about two-thirds of this population is over the age of 55.
  • Tobacco use — Given that modern tobacco products such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco are filled with carcinogens, they are a major risk factor that leads to oral cancer. In fact, nearly 80 percent of people with oral cancers consume tobacco or have done so significantly in the past.
  • Alcohol consumption — Alcohol is another major risk factor linked to oral cancer, as nearly 70 percent of people with the disease have a history of binge-drinking.
  • Genetics — Oral cancer shares a lot of similarities with other cancer types, including the fact that the genetic mutations that cause it can be passed down to future generations, as well as related health conditions that have strong links to oral cancer such as fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita.
  • HPV — Human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to many different forms of cancer, including those of the mouth, throat, and genitals.


If you have noticed any of the symptoms of oral cancer mentioned in this blog post or are concerned about the factors that put you at risk of developing the disease, contact our dentists at Trillium Dental. We would be happy to provide you with a general dentistry check up and oral cancer screening to discuss your dental health.