As part of your regular dental check-up, your dentist examines the skin on your lips and the inside of your mouth for signs of oral diseases. The most serious of these is oral cancer. There are also other diseases that your dentist can diagnose and treat.

Early detection of oral cancer can mean the difference between life and death, and its symptoms are visible to a dentist before they are noticeable to the patient. About 3400 of Canadians were diagnosed with oral cancer in 2010, and about 1,150 died from it.

An oral cancer screening is another reason to schedule regular dental check-ups. The oral cancer exam takes only minutes and is painless.

Signs of oral cancer:

  • Lumps or change in texture on mouth or tongue
  • Bleeding, numbness or sores that don’t heal
  • White or dark red patches on mouth or lips

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, visit your dentist as soon as possible.

The exact cause is unknown, but risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption, particularly when combined with smoking
  • Prolonged and repeated exposure of lips to sunlight
  • Gender – men are diagnosed more often then women
  • Genetics
  • Poor diet