Oral Cancer: Detailed Symptoms and Types

The topic of cancer is terrifying and people often avoid talking about it. But it is imperative to have extensive discussions on this topic to increase awareness about one of the deadly diseases encountered by the human race.

There are various kinds of cancers named according to the location of the body where they develop. Oral cancer is one of them.

Oral cancer, also called mouth cancer, is the sixth most prevalent type. It is the condition where a malignant tumor develops in the lining of the oral cavity. Tumors can grow on gums, the lining of the cheeks, palate, lips and the tongue.  In severely rare cases, oral cancer can spread to the salivary glands, tonsils and pharynx.

Statistics from oral cancer cases in the US are not very encouraging. According to the projections of the Oral Cancer Foundation, which researches the rate of occurrence of all the previous years, nearly 50,000 US citizens would be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. Out of which, roughly 10,000 will succumb to the fatality of the disease.

These high mortality rates associated with oral cancer is clearly suggesting that we have to educate our citizenry about this deadly tumor in a more extensive manner. In this article, we will shed light on the comprehensive signs, symptoms and different types of oral cancer in order to increase awareness among our readers.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Oral cancers can appear with a very wide and diverse range of symptoms. Here, we will discuss them categorically because no symptom of oral cancer should be overlooked.

Internal Symptoms

Symptoms appearing in the lining of the mouth are the most common. Internal signs of oral cancer are:

  • Growth of thick and smooth or speckled red and white patches in the oral cavity
  • Formation of lumps, sores, bumps with extra swelling and eroded skin inside the oral cavity and lips
  • Inexplicable bleeding inside the oral cavity

External symptoms

Oral cancers also show some external signs. Even though they are rare and not necessarily related to the development of a malignant tumor but it is advised to consult your physician or dentist in case you notice any of them.

  • Persistent bleeding sores on the facial area and neck which are not healing even after a fortnight
  • In some cases, chronic ear pain is also experienced by the patients
  • Weight loss is also witnessed in many of the oral cancer patients

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms include signs which appear while moving the anatomical features located in and around the facial region.

  • One of the signs of oral cancer is a growing difficulty in chewing and swallowing
  • Verbal communication also becomes difficult due to immobile tongue and jaws
  • Another sign of oral cancer is the altered way of how your teeth fit together

Change in voice, sore throat with difficulty to explain, lack of sensation in facial region and neck can also be the symptoms of developing oral tumor.

Types of Oral Cancer

Every type of mouth cancer is different from the other due to its different phase of development, treatments and mortality rates. Some of the common types of oral cancers are discussed here:

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The lining of oral cavity and throat is made of squamous cells. Malignant tumor starts to develop when some of these cells undergo abnormal growth. Almost 90 percent of oral cavity tumors belong to this type.


This type of oral cancer occurs with the development of tumor in lymph tissues (tonsils) present at the back of the oral cavity. Tongue gets badly affected in lymphomas.


It is a condition where white patches appear on the tongue. Most of the leukoplakia cases get healed with conventional treatments but there are nearly 25 percent chances of it to transform into a cancerous tumor.

Salivary Gland Carcinoma

Salivary glands are present in the lining of oral cavity and throat. Salivary gland carcinoma happens when these cells start to get replicated in the form of tumors. This type of oral cancer is also called adenocarcinomas.

The above discussion details the conditions and symptoms of oral symptoms. In the next article, we will talk about the treatments and preventive measures for oral cancer.



The Psychology Behind Oral Hygiene

Woman using dental floss
Photo by Wavebreakmedia – yayimages.com

For thousands of years, people did not brush their teeth. These ‘ancient’ people didn’t have access to toothbrushes or toothpaste to care for their oral hygiene. Yet their teeth were without any dental problems or cavities. They were effectively immune to oral health problems, an attribute which is a far cry for people of today.

There are numerous reasons for this. The most important of which is that their diet consisted of natural and unprocessed foods such as vegetables and fruits.  These natural foods did not contain preservatives or chemicals, so instead of weakening the structural integrity of their teeth, the food made their teeth healthier and more resistant to dental infections.

The natural foods contained a high amount of fiber which naturally served to keep their teeth clean by removing food and bacteria from their teeth. You could argue that their food served as a makeshift toothbrush of sorts. All they required to clean their teeth and keep them a whiter shade of pale was to just keep eating.

This is no longer the case for most people because their foods are now deficient in vitamins, minerals and fiber. To make things worse, the foods come loaded with chemical preservatives, which foster the conditions the growth of bacteria.

This created the need for people to brush their teeth for oral hygiene

Most people remember to brush their teeth at least twice every day, but flossing, which contributes to the other half of oral hygiene care takes a beat seat. People tend to forget flossing their teeth. Presumably, because it’s typically harder than brushing their teeth and inserting a piece of string in between the crevices of their teeth creates an icky sensation, a feeling which they would rather avoid.

Brushing your teeth is simpler and requires much less of an effort. The ensuing fresh breath serves as instant gratification for them. This is enough for most people to continue brushing their teeth as a daily habit. But the same cannot be said of flossing their teeth because the results are not immediate.

Our brain is conditioned to only perform actions which serve immediate rewards and prefers to defer those actions to a later time which give rewards over a long period of time. Flossing is a habit which will only give them gratification 10 or 20 years down the line, a time period most people don’t have the patience to contend with and tend to forego the process altogether.

So why do people continue to brush their teeth?

When people spend long periods of time without brushing their teeth, a small coat of plaque begins to grow around the teeth. This coat of plaque reminds them of the cleaner teeth they had just a few hours ago. They begin to crave after the cleaner teeth. These are all the cues they need to pick up the brush and clean their teeth until this layer of plaque is removed.

This is not the case for flossing because there is no immediate reward. It doesn’t feel like it works. It feels like a waste of time, energy and effort. They could have spent all this time watching TV or reading a comic.

But scientists have proven that flossing will play a definitive role in preventing teeth decay, preventing teeth from falling out, preventing gum disease and keeping the teeth healthy. All of this will, in turn, save people expensive dental trips and an unimaginable amount of pain.

How to develop that habit?

It’s clear that developing a habit of flossing your teeth is vital to the long-term wellbeing of your oral hygiene. Researchers are of the opinion that in order to develop this habit among both adults and children alike, you have to trick the brain into autopilot mode. This is done by creating a clearly defined reward system in place, something which the brain can look forward to on a daily basis.

Creating a reward system in place

This reward could range from the flavor of the floss to rewarding yourself with an appetizing snack after flossing. This reward system will eventually condition the brain into autopilot mode.

Making it easy to floss

Now obviously this reward is relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things and one can easily run out of motivation, especially when there is a dearth of floss in the house. The struggle to retrieve floss from a far-off location in exchange for trivial reward will quickly kill this habit. For this reason, it is important to collect a large supply of floss and keep them stashed around the house, so the brain doesn’t have to struggle.

This could hopefully develop a habit of flossing one’s teeth on a regular basis.

Types of Dental Specialists and Their Importance for Oral Health


Having your teeth and mouth in good shape is important for many reasons. With poor dental health, you run a higher risk of acquiring numerous diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, compared to maintaining good oral health. In addition, especially for our younger crowd, you might find it difficult engage in social activities because of the fear that bad teeth and breath might tarnish your first impression on others.  Due to such importance of oral health, the field of dentistry is not limited to just general dentists anymore. More specialist subfields have been developed in this branch of medicine in order prevent, diagnose and repair dental issues that the average dentist does not have to means to do.  In this article, we will look into these specialist fields and their importance for maintaining optimal oral health.

Endodontist- Ensuring the Health of Dental Pulp and Periradicular Tissues

Endodontists are those specialized dentists that have accomplished the training of endodontic therapy which is commonly known by the term ‘root canal therapy’. Dentists equipped with the knowledge of endodontic therapy have expertise in the physiology, pathology and morphology of periradicular tissues and dental pulp.  

Dental pulp and periradicular tissues are strongly associated with each other.  All the blood vessels, tissues and nerves surrounding the teeth root are referred by ‘periradicular tissues’, while the dental bulb is the central living connective tissue of a teeth. Dental pulp and periradicular tissues play important role in the formation of dentin, a calcified tissue essential for having strong and healthy teeth.

Orthodontist- Rectifying Crooked Teeth and Jaws  

Orthodontics belongs to that part of dentistry where dentist get the formal training to rectify the improperly cited teeth and misaligned jaws. This type of oral cavity issues can make it difficult for people to eat properly. People with crooked teeth also shy away from social interactions.

Orthodontics comes to the help of individuals suffering from all such issues. Orthodontists are skilled with the knowledge to perfectly employing dental fixtures (braces, aligners, headgears etc) to address the misalignment problems of teeth and jaws. Usually, general dentists after initial consultation refer patients to orthodontists.

Pediatric Dentist- Helping in Initial Oral Development

It is a known fact that dynamics of teeth is very different during infancy and teen years. Human teeth need extra care during childhood. Many adults suffer from oral health issues just because their teeth were not properly taken care of during their earlier development phase.  

This factor highlights the importance of pediatric dentists who are specialized in taking care of the oral health of children and ensure better dental growth and development in them.

Maxillofacial Surgeons—Improving Functional and Aesthetical Features

Maxillofacial surgeons are usually required in more specialized cases of dental and oral concerns. In simple words, maxillofacial surgeons are the orthopedic surgeons treating the facial and oral regions to resolve both aesthetic and functional features of the area. For instance, they can carry out facial reconstructive surgery as well as remove impacted teeth.  

Maxillofacial Pathologists

Unlike maxillofacial surgeons, pathologists of the same domain are focused on finding the underlying causes of oral health problems. Maxillofacial pathologists have undergone the training to perform oral biopsies for the sake of diagnosis.


In some cases where natural oral anatomy can’t be fixed, dentistry has to come with biocompatible substitutes that can assist a patient with the same functionality of damaged and lost oral and dental features.  Prosthodontist are trained to address these issues with options of dentures and veneers. They also take care of the ongoing maintenance and functionality of these biocompatible oral prosthetics.

Dental Public Health  

Apart from the above-discussed specialist fields of dentistry. There is another non-clinical realm called Dental Public Health (DPH). DPH specializes in addressing the dental health issues of a whole community. Dentists operating in this domain are focused on the better oral health of a group of people instead of individual patients.

DPH specialists usually make use of their expertise in these areas:

  • Ensuring that the entire community is getting sufficient dental health education
  • They also devise oral health programs to tackle the common and most prevalent dental issues in the community
  • They are also responsible to introduce measures for the prevention of large-scale oral and dental diseases

Tips for Healthy Teeth

Woman Smiling
Can’t beat a healthy teeth and a beautiful smile!

Fifty percent of people say that the first thing they notice about a person is their smile, according to a recent study conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. If your teeth are chipped, discolored, or damaged, this can affect your willingness to smile. But not to worry, a healthy and white smile is attainable if you follow these dental tips:

Toss Your Brush

The average toothbrush contains millions of bacteria, which includes E.coli and Staph, according to the University of Manchester in England. Replacing your brush gets rid of those pesky germs that linger on your brush even after washing. Don’t forget to replace your brush or brush head, if using an electric toothbrush every three months. Be sure to also replace your brush when its bristles get frayed and after each time you are sick. Always use a soft brush when brushing your teeth. “Hard bristles actually wear down your tooth structure,” says dentist Maricelle Abayon from Rochester, New York.

Eat Healthy

A healthy diet is good for our bodies and for our teeth. Eating healthy provides us with the nutrients and fiber we need to keep our teeth strong, healthy and free from disease. Eating foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates such as candy, juices and smoothies can increase the production of plaque acids that attack the enamel of our teeth. Based on studies, one exception could be dark chocolate. For healthy, strong teeth, stick to fibrous whole fruits and vegetables instead of juices or smoothies. The fiber in these whole fruits and veggies helps to naturally rinse away bacteria and food particles from the teeth. Leafy greens also help promote oral health because they are high in calcium and folic acid which may help treat gum disease according to the American Dental Association.


Brushing your teeth is key to healthy teeth and gums. Toothpaste contains fluoride that helps teeth become resistant to decay and even helps remove early decay. Gently brush your gums as well as your tongue while you brush your teeth to remove any food particles and plaque. You don’t need to brush your teeth too hard. Plaque itself is loose and soft, so you don’t need to scrub. Try not to rush through brushing your teeth. Turn on the timer on your phone or put on your favorite song while brushing. Make sure to brush your teeth between two to three minutes for optimal protection against cavities. According to the American Dental Hygienists Association, “It takes two minutes for the tooth enamel to take in the fluoride in toothpaste, making the tooth surface more resistant to bacteria.”

Floss Every Day

Flossing twice daily is very helpful in removing decay causing plaque. It is a very important part of maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Flossing regularly might seem like an annoyance, but it takes only a minute or two and helps remove food and bacteria stuck in the spaces between the teeth that brushing or mouthwash can’t remove. When these spaces between the teeth are left unclean, it can lead to plaque and tartar, as well as bad breath. Keep your teeth healthy and fresh by flossing twice daily, especially before bed and in the morning. 

Visit Your Dentist

A professional dental cleaning from your dentist every six months will help remove any buildup of plaque and tartar. Plaque is a sticky film that contains bacteria that hardens and becomes tartar. If tartar is not cleaned, it can start to produce acids that damage the bone that supports the teeth. This can cause periodontal disease which can lead to tooth loss. Your dentist will also be able to check for plaque, cavities and any other dental problems during your checkup. When caught early, teeth and gum problems are much easier to treat, keeping your teeth healthy and pain-free.

Stop Smoking

Smoking is bad for your health, especially your lungs and your heart. Smoking is also very bad for your gums and mouth. Smoking discolors the teeth, making them turn yellow in just a short amount of time. Long term smoking can turn teeth brown, due to the nicotine and tar in cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco can also wear down your teeth which can expose the roots of the teeth leaving them more susceptible to decay. Smokeless tobacco such as chewing tobacco allows harmful chemicals to come into direct contact with teeth and gums, causing rapid tooth decay, gum disease, and even oral cancer.