Regular visits to the dentist are usually associated with preventing cavities and maintaining overall oral health. However, it’s worth noting that dentists in Greenville, NC also contribute to the prevention and early detection of oral cancer.

With more than 300,000 cases diagnosed globally each year, oral cancer is a prevalent issue that demands attention. In this guide, we’ll explore the causes, prevention methods, and treatment options for oral cancer, highlighting the importance of proactive measures in minimizing the risk of this disease.


Oral cancer occurs when cells within the mouth begin to multiply rapidly and form tumors. If not detected and treated early, these tumors can spread to other areas of the body. The predominant type of oral cancer starts in the thin, flat cells lining the inner mouth.


While the exact cause of oral cancer may not always be pinpointed, certain factors can increase a person’s vulnerability to developing it. Here are the key factors to consider:

Tobacco Use

Engaging in smoking habits such as cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, as well as using smokeless tobacco products, is one of the most significant risk factors for oral cancer. Tobacco contains harmful chemicals that can directly damage cells within the mouth, paving the way for cancerous growths to develop.

Alcohol Consumption

Heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption is another prominent risk factor for oral cancer. Consistent exposure to alcohol can irritate the cells in the mouth, making them more susceptible to the harmful effects of carcinogens present in alcohol and tobacco.

HPV Infection

Infection with certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), particularly HPV-16 and HPV-18, has been identified as a significant risk factor for oral cancer. HPV can be transmitted through various means, including oral sex, and its presence can increase the likelihood of developing cancerous lesions in the mouth.

Sun Exposure

Prolonged and unprotected exposure to sunlight is a risk factor specifically associated with lip cancer. Those with fair skin are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can damage the cells in the lips and increase the risk of cancer development.

Poor Diet

A diet lacking in essential nutrients from fruits and vegetables, and high in processed foods is linked to an increased risk of oral cancer. Nutrient deficiencies can compromise the immune system’s ability to combat cancerous cells effectively, making individuals more susceptible to developing oral cancer.

Genetic Factors

While lifestyle and environmental factors play an important role, genetic predisposition can also contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to oral cancer. Certain genetic mutations or inherited conditions may increase the risk of developing oral cancer, though the influence of genetics may vary from person to person.


Recognizing the symptoms of oral cancer is essential for early detection, which greatly improves the chances of successful treatment and recovery. Here’s a closer look at the signs and symptoms to watch out for:

Persistent Mouth Sores

Keep an eye out for any sores or ulcers in the mouth that do not heal within a reasonable timeframe. These sores may appear as small, painful lesions and can persist for several weeks or even months without improvement.

Red or White Patches

Abnormal patches of red or white tissue in the mouth can indicate potential issues, including oral cancer. These patches may appear as discolored areas on the gums, tongue, inner cheeks, or palate and should be examined by a healthcare professional if they persist or worsen over time.

Unexplained Bleeding or Numbness

Any unexplained bleeding or numbness in the mouth should raise concerns and prompt further evaluation. Bleeding from the gums, tongue, or other oral tissues, particularly without an obvious cause such as injury, requires attention to rule out underlying issues such as oral cancer.

Difficulty Chewing or Swallowing

Oral cancer can affect the functionality of the mouth and throat, leading to difficulties with chewing, swallowing, or speaking. If you experience persistent discomfort or obstruction while eating or swallowing food, it’s important to seek medical assessment promptly.

Chronic Sore Throat or Hoarseness

Persistent soreness or hoarseness in the throat that lasts for more than a few weeks should not be ignored, as it could be a sign of underlying issues such as vocal cord or throat cancer. Any changes in voice quality or difficulty speaking should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Lump or Thickening

Be mindful of any unusual lumps, bumps, or thickening in the mouth, throat, or neck area. These abnormal growths may indicate the presence of tumors or swollen lymph nodes, which require further investigation to determine their cause and appropriate management.

Pain or Discomfort

Persistent pain or discomfort in the mouth, tongue, gums, or ears should be evaluated by a healthcare provider, especially if the discomfort does not resolve with over-the-counter remedies. Oral cancer can cause localized pain or discomfort that may worsen over time if left untreated.

Changes in Oral Appliances

If you wear dentures, braces, or other oral appliances, pay attention to any changes in their fit or comfort level. Ill-fitting appliances or sudden alterations in their fit could be indicative of underlying changes in the oral tissues, including the potential development of oral cancer.

If you experience any of these symptoms for more than two weeks or notice any other concerning changes in your oral health, don’t hesitate to consult your dentist in Greenville, NC, for an oral cancer screening.


The treatment approach for oral cancer is multifaceted, taking into account several factors. Here’s an overview of the primary treatment options available:


Surgical intervention is often the cornerstone of treatment for oral cancer. The primary goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous tumor and any affected surrounding tissues while preserving as much healthy tissue and function as possible.

Depending on the extent of the cancer, surgical procedures may involve excising the tumor alone or may include the removal of nearby lymph nodes to prevent the spread of cancer cells.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to target and destroy cancer cells. This treatment option may be employed as a standalone therapy for early-stage oral cancer or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy for more advanced cases. Radiation therapy aims to shrink tumors, alleviate symptoms, and improve overall outcomes for patients.


Chemotherapy involves the administration of potent drugs, either orally or intravenously, to kill cancer cells or inhibit their growth. This systemic treatment may be used in conjunction with surgery and/or radiation therapy to target cancer cells throughout the body, particularly in cases of advanced or recurrent oral cancer.

Chemotherapy regimens are tailored to each patient’s specific needs and may cause side effects that require careful management.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy employs drugs designed to selectively target specific molecules or pathways involved in cancer growth and progression. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, targeted therapy aims to minimize harm to healthy cells while effectively attacking cancerous cells. This treatment modality may be considered when standard treatments have proven ineffective or to reduce the side effects associated with traditional chemotherapy.

The choice of treatment for oral cancer is highly individualized and may vary based on factors such as the stage and aggressiveness of the cancer, the patient’s overall health and preferences, and the expertise of the treating healthcare team.


While it’s not always possible to prevent oral cancer entirely, adopting certain lifestyle habits and protective measures can help reduce your risk. Here are some practical steps you can take to lower your chances of developing oral cancer:

  • Visit Your Dentist RegularlyRegular check-ups with your dentist in Greenville, NC, are an essential part of oral cancer prevention and early detection. During dental exams, your dentist can examine your mouth for any signs of oral cancer, including suspicious lesions or abnormalities.
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption is another major risk factor for oral cancer. To reduce your risk, aim to drink alcohol in moderation. Guidelines recommend limiting intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
  • Protect Your Lips: Prolonged exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of lip cancer, especially for individuals with fair skin. To protect your lips from the sun’s harmful rays, use a lip balm with SPF protection.
  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help support overall health and reduce the risk of oral cancer.

By incorporating these preventive measures into your lifestyle and staying vigilant about your oral health, you can help reduce your risk of developing oral cancer and promote overall well-being.

Remember that early detection is key, so be proactive about seeking medical attention if you notice any concerning symptoms or changes in your oral health.


As we wrap up our discussion on oral cancer, it’s important to emphasize the significant impact of regular dental check-ups on prevention and early detection. At Michels & Gauquie DDS PA, we are dedicated to safeguarding your oral health and provide thorough oral cancer screenings as part of our services. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!