Oral cancer refers to cancer that develops in the mouth. It’s a very aggressive cancer and estimated to kill 10,000 Americans every year. Oral cancers are divided into two categories:

  • Oral cancer: Cancer of the oral cavity, which includes the lips, cheeks, teeth, gum, front of the tongue, and roof or floor of your mouth.
  • Oropharyngeal cancer: Cancer of the throat, which includes the tonsils, the base of the tongue, and the surrounding tissue.

HPV is also associated with throat cancers at the back of the mouth (which makes it difficult to detect), most notably with young women. The most common denominator in HPV transmission is oral sex which can lead to an increase in oral cancer. That is why screening and early detection is the best plan for detection.


There is a range of different symptoms that may indicate a person has oral cancer. If you’ve had any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, schedule an appointment with your dentist:

  • A sore or persistent irritation
  • Red or white patches inside your mouth
  • Pain or numbness in the lips
  • A lump or rough spot inside your mouth
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Trouble moving your tongue or jaw
  • A sore throat or hoarseness


The most important thing you can do to prevent oral cancer is to:

  • Refrain from smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Practice good oral hygiene
  • Schedule & fulfill regular six-month exams
  • Request an oral cancer screening at each check-up
  • In between dental visits, do oral cancer self-exam*
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all preteen boys and girls, ages 11 – 12, should be vaccinated for HPV.
  • Vaccines are recommended for males and females ages 13 – 26

Only about 20-30% of dentists perform routine oral cancer screenings in the United States. We encourage all Dentists to perform screenings.


While men have in the past been twice as likely to develop oral cancer due to their higher use of tobacco and alcohol, women are rapidly outpacing men as HPV has caused a rapid rise in women diagnosed with oral cancer.

There is an alarming rise in young women aged 16 – 25, diagnosed with throat cancer stemming from HPV, as a result of the growing incidence of HPV. Younger men are also developing oral cancer due to HPV.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that is related to the rise in throat cancers in non-smoking adults. It’s associated with about 9,000 cases every year.