Oral cancer is cancer (abnormal cell growth) that forms in tissues of the oral cavity.  Most oral cancers begin in the lining of the lips or mouth where cells are thin and flat.

Risk factors:

  • Smoking and smokeless tobacco
  • Marijuana use
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Having human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Being male
  • Overexposure to ultraviolet light (to the lip) from the sun or tanning beds


  • A sore on your lip that either bleeds easily or doesn’t heal
  • A white or red area on the lining of your mouth, tongue, gums, or tonsils
  • A lump on your lips, gums, cheek, or in your mouth
  • Swelling in your jaw that make your teeth loose
  • Numbness or pain in your tongue or other areas around your mouth
  • Difficulty with chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw and tongue
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in your voice

If you are concerned that you may be experiencing symptoms related to oral cancer, call for an appointment right away to have the dentist examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer.  If it appears that there are signs of cancer, other tests will be needed.

Find more information about oral cancer at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/oral.