Oral Cancer Screening

Author: Dr. Alison Vitelli, DMD

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and it is our duty to assess and evaluate all areas in the mouth including soft tissue inside and outside of the mouth.  The mouth is a very tough environment and we put our mouths through a lot every day.  This is why it’s so important to pay attention to anything different that we see or feel in it!

The most usual lesion that we see in the mouth is trauma associated ones. Burns and biting are the most common.  These usually resolve in an average of 7 days but the specific amount of time to heal depends on how good the patient’s body healing capacity is and how severe the trauma was.  It will still be safe to say, that it will most than likely be all gone before 14 days.

This is a very important number I always tell my patients to keep in mind.  ANY lesion that lasts for MORE than 14 days, is one that we need to follow very closely.  Lesions in the mouth can have a big spectrum of appearance: red, white, patchy, raised, flat, regular or irregular borders, filled with fluid, etc.  So, if you find a lesion, always look for the characteristics of it and any changes you may notice such as size, texture, color and presence/absence of pain.

Sadly, no one is exempt from developing oral cancer, but certain habits can put our patients to a higher risk of developing malignancies in the head and neck region.  Some of these are chronic exposure to sun, smoking and use of smokeless tobacco.  The location of the lesion is an indicator of how aggressively we need to follow it up.  Most malignant lesions are found at the soft palate (area at the end of the roof of the mouth close to where the throat starts), lower lip (including the border of the lip) and sides of the tongue.

Now you know why we always look around your mouth and palpate around your neck.  We evaluate a lot more than just teeth! If you notice any of the symptoms listed above or are in need of an oral cancer screening, call us at 910-497-3200!