Every day, around 3 Australians are diagnosed with oral cancer. The most common causes of oral cancer are: smoking, alcohol, sun exposure (causing cancer of the lip) and the HPV virus (responsible for lesions such as a cold sore). The most common areas for oral cancer to develop are on the sides of the tongue, floor of mouth, lower lip (see picture below) and cheeks.
Regular dental check-ups are essential in the early detection of suspicious lesions, as most cancers develop without you realising. In about 10% of patients the dentist may notice a flat, painless, white or red spot or a small sore. Although most of these are harmless, some are not. Harmful oral spots or sores often look identical to those that are harmless. so investigating the cause of the lesion with careful follow up and monitoring is very important.
If you notice any changes to the soft tissues inside your mouth discuss these with your dentist urgently.