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At Smiles by Seese, we prioritize the oral health and well-being of our patients. One common concern that can cause confusion and worry is the presence of mouth sores. When patients have a stubborn sore inside their mouth, it can be hard to ignore. In some cases, you may wonder if you have oral cancer or just a stubborn canker sore. By understanding their distinctive characteristics, you can alleviate unnecessary anxiety and seek appropriate care when needed.

Canker Sores: Common and Benign

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are shallow, painful sores that develop on the soft tissues inside the mouth. These sores are common and generally benign in nature. Canker sores are not contagious and typically heal on their own within one to two weeks. They may appear as small, round or oval-shaped lesions with a white or yellowish center and a red border. While their exact cause is unknown, factors such as stress, injury, hormonal changes, and certain foods can trigger their formation.

Oral Cancer: A Serious Concern

Oral cancer, on the other hand, is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. Oral cancer refers to the abnormal growth of cells in the mouth or throat. It can affect the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, floor of the mouth, or roof of the mouth. The symptoms of oral cancer may vary, but they can include persistent mouth sores, red or white patches, lumps or thickening of the mouth tissues, difficulty swallowing or speaking, and unexplained bleeding or numbness.

The Canker Sore Vs. Cancer Difference

To help clear up your confusion about your mouth sore, we’ve provided the following key differences between a canker sore and an oral cancer lesion:

  • Appearance: Canker sores are usually small, round or oval-shaped ulcers with a white or yellowish center and a red border. They are typically painful but heal on their own within a couple of weeks. Oral cancer may present as persistent mouth sores or patches that do not heal, and they may be accompanied by other symptoms such as lumps, thickening, or changes in sensation.
  • Healing Time: Canker sores heal within one to two weeks without any specific treatment. If a mouth sore persists for more than two weeks or fails to improve, it is essential to seek professional evaluation to rule out the possibility of oral cancer.
  • Risk Factors: Canker sores are common in many individuals and can be triggered by various factors, including stress, injury, hormonal changes, and certain foods. Oral cancer, however, is associated with specific risk factors such as tobacco use (including smoking and smokeless tobacco), excessive alcohol consumption, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a weakened immune system, and a history of oral cancer.
  • Progression: Canker sores are generally self-limiting and do not progress into more severe conditions. Oral cancer, if left untreated, can grow and spread to other parts of the body, leading to more advanced stages and potentially life-threatening consequences.

When in Doubt, Ask a Professional

If you are unsure about a mouth sore or have concerns about oral health, it is always best to consult a dental professional. Dr. Seese is specially trained and skilled to distinguish between benign conditions like canker sores and more serious issues such as oral cancer. We can perform a thorough examination, including a visual inspection, palpation, and may recommend further tests, such as a biopsy, if necessary.

Get Your Oral Cancer Screening in Davidson

While canker sores and oral cancer can both cause discomfort and concern, understanding their differences is crucial. Canker sores are common, benign ulcers that typically heal on their own within one to two weeks. On the other hand, oral cancer is a serious condition that requires immediate attention. If you have persistent mouth sores, unexplained changes in your oral tissues, or other concerning symptoms, it is essential to call our Davidson dental office.

At Smiles by Seese, our experienced team is dedicated to providing comprehensive oral care, including the identification and management of oral health conditions. We offer oral cancer screenings at your routine dental visits every six months. It is time to schedule yours?

Posted on behalf of Smiles By Seese

610 Jetton St. Suite 250
Davidson, NC 28036

Phone: (704) 895-5095


Monday (once/month): 8AM – 5PM
Tuesday - Thursday: 8AM – 5PM
Friday: 8AM – 3PM

Your comfort is our priority

Call us (704) 895-5095
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Our Patients Testimonials

Susan H.

Always a smile I think Dr. Seese and his staff are just great. They are a great combination of professional experience and genuine concern for their patient.

Amy M.

Efficient and Friendly I was in for a six-month checkup and cleaning. The staff and the dentist are friendly, on time, and efficient. They handle insurance filing, and they send reminders. The location is convenient, and the office is pleasant and clean. Perfect!

Peggy D.

A sense of comfort when visiting a Dentist's office! Always a great experience due to their friendly, warm professional service.

Carter H.

Always a fun time Brian, Courtney, Donna, and Karen are a great team. I get good care and great friendship there! Highly recommend this dedicated practice.