How to Check for Oral Cancer at Home

man smiling at self in mirror

How to Check for Oral Cancer at Home

Regularly checking for oral cancer can save your life. Your dentist checks for the warning signs of oral cancer every time you have a dental checkup. But you can also perform a daily self-exam to ensure that you get treatment as early as possible. Here’s how to properly check for oral cancer at home. 

At-Home Oral Cancer Screenings: What You Need to Know

How Often to Screen

You should be performing a thorough at-home oral cancer screening at least once a month to protect your oral health. The earlier you detect oral cancer, the better the chances of successful treatment. 

How to Prepare

Use a bright light and a mirror to ensure you get a good look at the inside of your mouth. If you wear dentures, you’ll need to remove them before the examination. Then take a close look at your lips, gums, tongue, and cheeks, the floor and roof of your mouth, as well as your face and neck for any unusual changes.

Symptoms to Watch For

Call your doctor right away if any of these symptoms last over two weeks:

  • White or red spots with defined borders
  • Lumps and bumps
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Loose teeth
  • Mouth pain
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Ear pain

How to Check for Oral Cancer at Home

1: Check Your Lips

Examine your lips by pulling your upper lip up and your bottom lip down to look inside for discoloration or sores. You also need to feel your lips for any lumps or changes in texture. 

2: Check Your Gums

Next, check your gums on either side of your teeth by feeling for anything unusual, such as sores or bumps. Black spots on the gums can also be a sign of oral cancer. 

3: Check Your Tongue

Look at the top of your tongue, the sides, and underneath for swelling, sores, or changes in color. 

4: Check Your Cheeks

Pull out each inner cheek to inspect it for white or red patches. Use your finger to feel each cheek for ulcers, lumps, or pain. Running your tongue over the inside of each cheek can also help you detect rough patches, sores, and tenderness. 

5: Check the Floor and Roof of Your Mouth

Lift your tongue and look underneath it to examine the floor of your mouth for discoloration. Then gently press your finger on the mouth floor and underneath your tongue, feeling for lumps, swelling, or sores. 

To examine the roof of your mouth, tilt your head back and open your mouth wide. Look for discoloration, then gently press your finger to the roof of your mouth to check for sores and changes in textures. 

6: Look at Your Whole Face

It’s also important to examine your entire face when performing an oral cancer screening. Look for any unusual swelling, moles, or lumps. 

7: Feel Your Neck

Examining your neck can help detect throat cancer. Feel underneath your jaw and along your neck to check for swelling, lumps, and enlarged lymph nodes

Oral Cancer Screenings in Prescott, Arizona

Even if you frequently check yourself for oral cancer at home, you still need regular exams from your dentist. The Prescott Dentistry team is well trained in performing oral cancer screenings

Maintaining good oral health with professional teeth cleanings can also help reduce your risk of oral cancer. If you’re due for a dental checkup, give us a call at 928-445-1660 to schedule an appointment. 


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (4/3/2023). Photo by Diva Plavalaguna on Pexels