Canker Sore vs. Cancer: Which is it?

Canker sores are common oral conditions that most people experience during their life. The medical term for these painful lesions is aphthous ulcers that typically cause no long-term problems and only form on the moist surfaces of the mouth. The pain they cause and their ulcerated appearance cause some confusion with oral cancer. However, knowing their differences can help prevent unnecessary concern when one appears. Read on to learn more about canker sores vs cancer. 

If you have a mouth sore or other oral lesion causing you concern, schedule an appointment at Trident Dental for a comprehensive oral examination.

Differences Between Canker Sores vs. Oral Cancer

There are several differences between canker sores and oral cancer, such as:

  • Most canker sores go away on their own within ten to fourteen days. Oral cancer will not go away and will persist and worsen indefinitely. 

  • Canker sores typically cause pain, tingling, or a burning sensation. These symptoms often develop a day or two prior to the sore appearing. Although some oral cancers can cause pain, they are usually painless in their initial stages.

  • Canker sores usually have a red, angry, inflamed, and flat appearance. Oral cancer can have a bump or lump under them that you can feel.

  • Canker sores cause temporary problems such as burning or pain when consuming acidic foods and beverages. They do not cause the more severe and chronic problems of oral cancer, such as swallowing, talking, or chewing.

What Are Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

Several factors increase your risk of oral cancer, including:

  • Tobacco. Smoking is one of the leading causes of oral cancer. In addition to smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, using any tobacco product, such as snuff and chewing tobacco, increases your risk.

  • Alcohol. While alcohol has many detrimental effects on your health, it does not seem to increase your risk of oral cancer when used alone. However, using alcohol and tobacco has a synergistic effect that causes a dramatic increase in the risk of oral cancer.

  • Excessive sun exposure. The risk for lip cancer is increased if lips are not protected from too much time in the sun. This appears especially true for fair-skinned people.

The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

Although your physician may examine your head and neck during a routine physical examination, your dentist is best trained to detect oral cancer. Regular dental checkups can often identify precancerous lesions and treat them before they have a chance to spread or transform into a more serious cancer.

Dentists have several advantages in providing an oral cancer screening, including:

  • Special lighting that facilitates examining each area of the oral cavity, including areas such as under the tongue.

  • Training that helps them distinguish benign oral lesions from more serious ones.

  • Supine positioning of the patient that makes thorough inspection and patient comfort possible.

  • Having a thorough medical and dental history to identify patients at increased risk.

Schedule Appointment

Contact Trident Dental for a comprehensive oral examination and cancer screening to help prevent oral health problems and maintain healthy teeth and gums. 

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