It’s not only tooth decay and gum disease that can quietly take hold in your mouth without you knowing anything about it. Mouth cancer can also appear, which is why at Meadowbank Dental in Edinburgh, we recommend you book a short yearly check-up.
Mouth cancer is on the rise in the UK, without about 2,700 deaths a year, a rise of about 21% in the past decade. Many of these are as a result of late detection. UK death rates are expected to rise by 38% between 2014–2035, to seven deaths per 100,000 people by 2035. Mouth cancer is now the sixth most common cancer in the world.
Who is at risk of mouth cancer?
You may imagine you are in the clear if you are a non-smoker, but it is not just smokers who get mouth cancer. This disease is also linked to not eating enough fruit and veg, and drinking alcohol, in that order. Along with bad diet, experts also predict that mouth cancer caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) transmitted through oral sex will become the main cause of mouth cancer.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that it is easy to detect early signs of mouth cancer. When this cancer is caught early, it can often be cured with relatively minor surgery.
During a screening, your dentist at Meadowbank Dental will carefully check the linings of your cheeks, the roof of your mouth (palate), and your lips and gums. We will also check your saliva glands, tonsils, and pharynx (the part of the throat that connects your mouth to your windpipe), although cancer in these areas is rarer.
Signs of mouth cancer
Mouth cancers show up as:
- strange and persistent lumps;
- loose teeth, or sockets that won’t heal after extractions;
- numb or odd-feeling lips or tongue;
- strange lumps in the neck;
- painful mouth ulcers that won’t heal;
- white or red patches;
- changes in speech, such as a lisp.
As mouth cancer is more likely to affect drinkers and smokers, this may explain why more men than women develop it, and why it is more prevalent in people over 50 and younger than 74.