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The team at Heathwood Dental is committed to oral (mouth) cancer screening; it is performed routinely as part of every dental examination we do, whatever the patient age. We have undertaken extensive training allowing us to identify, using magnification and a bright light, any abnormalities that might affect the areas where oral cancer occurs: the lips, gums, palate, tongue, floor of mouth, cheeks and throat structures.

So why is this screening so important?

  • Oral (mouth) cancer is the 6th most common malignancy worldwide, with one of the lowest survival rates of all malignancies (50% at 5 years). 
  • Unlike most major cancers, which are declining in incidence, the number of oral cancer cases has increased by 30% since 1990, and is predicted to do the same again over the next 15 years. 
  • More people in the UK die annually of oral cancer than ovarian and testicular cancers combined, or die in road traffic accidents.
  • Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women, although the frequency in women is increasing.
  • Most cases occur in people over the age of 40.

There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing oral cancer, although 25% of cases occur in people with no identifiable factors:

  • Smoking is the biggest cause (60% of cases). Second hand smoke is also a recognised risk factor.
  • Alcohol consumption is implicated in approximately 30% of cases.
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption together potentiate the risk of developing oral cancer by 30x.
  • Tobacco or betel nut chewing.
  • Exposure to the HPV virus, which is also implicated in cervical cancer.
  • Overexposure to sun/UV light can cause skin cancer on the lips.
  • Having a family history of oral cancer seems to slightly increase an individual’s susceptibility, as does having a past history of some other forms of cancer.
  • Certain inherited genes
  • Having a weakened immune system, as seen in those with HIV/AIDS, or in patients taking immune suppressing drugs following organ transplants.

Signs and symptoms of Oral Cancer

There are many things to look out for, with the following information courtesy of the Mouth Cancer Foundation:

These are things to look out for:

Ulcers that do not heal within 3 weeks

Pain or discomfort in the mouth

Lumps and swellings of no obvious cause in the mouth or neck

Bleeding from the mouth or throat

Red or white patches inside the mouth

Changes in texture; hardness, roughness

Teeth that become loose

Difficulty or pain with swallowing, chewing or moving the jaw

Persistent hoarseness or changes to the voice

Persistent coughing or the feeling that something is ‘stuck’ in the throat

Numbness or tingling of the lips or tongue

Unexplained weight loss

Dentures that suddenly stop fitting properly

When examining the skin on the face and neck, check for:

New swellings

Moles and spots that get bigger, become hard or start to bleed

Changes to the colour or texture of the skin

Heathwood Dental Practice

1 Kings Road, Crowthorne,

Berkshire. RG45 7BF

Tel. 01344776933

That’s quite a list but remember the mouth is prone to all sorts of damage.   We bite ourselves, burn ourselves with hot food and drink and damage the inside of our mouths with spicy foods or scrape it with hard things. Bleeding gums and loose teeth are commonly caused by gum disease. Many people are prone to mouth ulcers (never lasting more than 3 weeks).

Skin conditions like lichen planus can cause ulceration, changes to texture and white patches and infection with thrush and other microorganisms are common. Most dentures become loose simply because they are old. Pain in the mouth is often due to toothache or abscesses. The chances of the signs and symptoms above being due to cancer are low but we all know our own bodies’ best so if you have ANY SUSPICION THAT SOMETHING MAY BE WRONG contact your dentist or doctor IMMEDIATELY. 

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Heathwood Dental Practice

1 Kings Road, 



RG45 7BF

T. 01344776933

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